Instagram believes its new anti-bullying tool, which prompts users to pause and consider what they are saying, could help curb abuse on the platform.
Instagram said it was using artificial intelligence to recognise when text resembles the kind of posts that are most often reported as inappropriate by users. In one example, a person types “you are so ugly and stupid”, only to be interrupted with a notice saying: “Are you sure you want to post this? Learn more”.
If the user taps “learn more”, a notice informs: “We are asking people to rethink comments that seem similar to others that have been reported.” The user can ignore the message and post anyway, but Instagram said in early tests that “we have found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect.”
The tool is being rolled out to English-speaking users at first, with plans to eventually make it available globally, Instagram told the BBC.
Instagram has been under pressure to deal with its bullying problem after high profile cases, including the suicide of British teenager Molly Russell, reported BBC.
In a blog post, the firm’s chief executive Adam Mosseri said his firm “could do more” on the issue. “We can do more to prevent bullying from happening on Instagram, and we can do more to empower the targets of bullying to stand up for themselves,” Mr Mosseri wrote.
“These tools are grounded in a deep understanding of how people bully each other and how they respond to bullying on Instagram, but they’re only two steps on a longer path.”
The company said it will soon roll out an additional tool, called Restrict, designed to help teens filter abusive comments without resorting to blocking others – a blunt move that could have repercussions in the real world.
“We’ve heard from young people in our community that they’re reluctant to block, unfollow, or report their bully because it could escalate the situation, especially if they interact with their bully in real life,” Mr Mosseri said.
“Some of these actions also make it difficult for a target to keep track of their bully’s behaviour.”
Once a user has been restricted, their comments will appear only to themselves. Crucially, a restricted person will not know they have been restricted.
“You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments,” Mr Mosseri explained. “Restricted people won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram or when you’ve read their direct messages.”
Bullying on social media, particularly Instagram, has been on the rise. According to a 2017 article by BBC, Instagram was highlighted as having become the vehicle most used for mean comments. Seven per cent of young social network users said they had been bullied on the Facebook-owned photo app. That compared to a figure of 6% for Facebook itself, 5% for Snapchat and 2% for Twitter and YouTube.