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Instagram is bringing in new features to help slow down the rate of harassment and bullying

Online abuse following Euro 2020 final prompted those who work at Instagram to make some serious changes to how they deal with harassment and bullying

Social media is a playground for hatred and nastiness, racism and bullying, and getting it under control is like taming a beast. Each time another feature is added the trolls and bullies barge their way through to make someone’s life a misery. Well, again Instagram is working toward battling the incessant hate and is rolling out a new feature appropriately dubbed ‘Limits’. A new anti-harassment tool that will enable users to protect themselves and their accounts from abuse and unwanted comments and messages. Instagram had made a start with this type of campaign this year by adding a feature that will allow the user to not just block a single account, but to pre-emptively block any accounts associated with that person, i.e if they have made multiple accounts for the sake of purely trolling/bullying that user. They also brought about the warnings that messages may contain threatening of offensive content, including words and emojis that could also be updated by the user to their own preferences.

The Euro 2020 final saw that there was a massive influx of hate flooding users’ accounts, and vile bouts of racism being spewed every which way. This prompted those who work at Instagram to make some serious changes to how they deal with harassment and bullying, especially when it comes to spikes in popularity such as going viral. Spam comments and direct messages from people they don’t know can completely blast a users’ profile, and the new Limits feature should help to curb that during these periods. Limits can be set by the user to restrict interactions from recent followers as well as those who don’t follow them. The amount of time can be chosen for how long this lasts for each user, and for whatever period they choose the accounts can’t send direct messages or post comments to the page. It is basically a way for users to ‘lock down’ their page whilst a vast negative impact is happening. This feature has already been tested and is being rolled out across the world.

Instagram isn’t the only one looking to try out new techniques for curbing this type of online abuse. Twitter has been considering adding new features to help users’ stay safe from abusive situations as a result of negative viral publicity. They have been looking at giving people more control with who mentions them by @theirusername, as it could help to control and possibly subside unwanted attention. If someone @mentions a user, drawing attention via their notification system, can sometime set off an onslaught of hateful tweets that will lead to a mass scale of bullying and cyber abuse. Users are being encouraged to submit feedback as to how else they may be able to help protect users and their accounts. A feature they have been mulling over is allowing users to ‘unmention’ themselves, so they aren’t tagged in it and hate won’t be sent directly to their profile. Possibly, they could enable some system where they will be able to prevent the abusive user from mentioning the user in a tweet after they have ‘unmentioned’ themselves.

Another feature from Instagram that is being deployed is named ‘Hidden Words’, which will automatically filter out spammy requests and offensive words or phrases which the user can choose to not see. This has been deployed in a bunch of countries earlier this year but will be available to IG users all over the world by the end of the month. ‘Hide more comments’ will allow users to hide potentially harmful comments on their page that don’t necessarily go against Instagram’s guidelines. There will also be strong warning to users who are about to post a potentially abusive or vicious comment, and if it goes against their guidelines and they have done this multiple times they will get an alert that tells them their account may be deleted.

“We hope that these new features better protect people from viewing abusive content, be it racist, sexist, homophobic or any other type of abuse,” head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said, in an announcement about the changes.
“We know there is more to do, including improving our systems to find and remove abusive content faster, and hold those who post it accountable.”

Of course, creators aren’t always the good guys, and many of them will use their platform and mass following to spread misinformation or conspiracies. The anti-abuse features could be misused to silence simply differences in opinion. This means that they would also be able to use the anti-harassment tools to hide negative interactions or people who disagree, painting them as a user who is good and spreading good word which will transfer into what brands see as a good opportunity to use them to promote brand deals and generate market power. False empowerment and misinformation is a topic that will be a much longer, and much more complicated battle that social media will likely tackle at some point.

Although Instagram is giving power to the people, of whom are creators and influencers, there could be huge impacts on who has the power and how it is used, and how it may affect the overall economy for the creators.

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