Instagram announces feature to fight online harassment and bullying

Facebook owned Instagram has announced they’re rolling out and testing new features that will help tackle online bullying. This comes after a lot of complaints that the company was doing very little in the sector with the rise of online trolls, and bullies.

In the official announcement on the Instagram blog, the company admits, “We know bullying is a challenge many face, particularly young people. We are committed to leading the industry in the fight against online bullying, and we are rethinking the whole experience of Instagram to meet that commitment.”

The new Artificial Intelligence powered tool will notify users if they’re about to post something that’s deemed an offensive comment.

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How this will work in different languages is still something we wait to see. Also, being AI powered, it will be interesting to see how Instagram manages to capture all forms of harassment and bullying.

Instagram admits they know bullying is a complex issue. How they address it with AI will be an interesting venture. We’ve seen Twitter suspend accounts over certain English phrases that can be offensive in other contexts, but funny when making jokes with friends.

How will the AI on Instagram differentiate between jokes and bullying?

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The company says, this notification to people before they post their hurtful comments, gives them a chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from receiving the harmful comment notification. They claim that from early tests of this feature, they’ve seen it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful.

The company is also introducing (testing) a tool called “RESTRICT” that will hide comments from bullies. The bullies won’t know their comments are restricted and hidden. They won’t know if you’ve see their DMs, and they won’t see when you’re active on Instagram.

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Restrict will appear below report comment and should roll out in the coming weeks. Instagram says they’ve heard from young people 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. With this feature, the bully won’t know.

Being that very many Instagram users are young teens, these new features seem like good ways to manage large communities of people with different intentions online.

However, online tools cannot change human behaviour. They can only hide it, or mask it. 100% safety online is still not guaranteed. So if you’re a parent, make sure you know your child’s activities online as online bullying affects mental health, and can escalate into serious issues.


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