Instagram is implementing more measures to protect its users, adding in new anti-bullying tools this week to advance its efforts. Bullying is one of the most critical issues in society, particularly among the younger and more impressionable, who are also the most prominent users of social media.
First off, Instagram’s adding a new automated warning which will prompt users when their comment may be considered offensive, giving them a chance to review before the post creator sees it.
The new tool will be triggered by the use of certain words within comments and will alert the user with a notification that asks if they’re sure that’s what they want to post.
“This intervention gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from receiving harmful comment notification. From early tests of this feature, 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.”
That quick re-check may be all that’s needed – given that post comments have no vocal tone, it can be easy to unintentionally say the wrong thing. Taking a moment to consider how, exactly, the recipient may read it could help lessen this impact, and reduce accidental harm.
In addition to this, Instagram’s also testing a new ‘Restricted’ mode, which will give users a way to lessen the impact of certain users without alerting them to any such limitation.
“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. We wanted to create a feature that allows people to control their Instagram experience, without notifying someone who may be targeting them. Soon, we will begin testing a new way to protect your account from unwanted interactions called Restrict. Once you Restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments.”
The idea here is that by limiting the exposure of such comments, you lessen the harm – though it does still seem a little flawed in practice.
As noted by Instagram, some users are hesitant to block or unfollow someone who they interact with in real life, and in such instances, the restricted user would likely also interact with other people they know. So if that person were to comment, and their comment didn’t show up for other users in the same social group, they’d likely work out that they’ve been restricted. That could lead to similar repercussions as Instagram highlights in regards to existing measures.
At the same time, it is important for Instagram to try new things, and their internal testing has likely highlighted potential benefit. It seems problematic, but it may provide increased capacity for protection, and lessen such impacts.
And worth noting, restricted users also won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram, nor when you’ve read their direct messages.
According to a survey conducted in 2017, Instagram is “the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing”, with the platform contributing to higher levels of anxiety and depression, among other issues. And when you also consider that teens regularly delete Instagram posts which don’t get enough likes, it’s clear that such metrics are contributing to these concerns.
Given these factors, it’s important that Instagram does try new things, that it is looking to address such issues where it can. It’s not possible to expect the platform to be able to eliminate such issues entirely, but the fact that it’s investigating new options is positive.
It may need some more refining before making its Restricted option work as intended, but it’s another good starting point, which shows that Instagram is working to refine its processes.