Instagram takes action after racist abuse of England national team soccer players

Menlo Park, California - Instagram has announced a range of new tools it says will help protect users from abuse on the social media platform, with a new feature called Limits at the center of the latest update.

In addition to the social media abuse, a mural of England and Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford was defaced after the Euro 2020 final.
In addition to the social media abuse, a mural of England and Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford was defaced after the Euro 2020 final.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Limits will give people the ability to automatically hide comments and direct message requests from other users who do not already follow, or have only recently followed them.

The firm said it had been designed to stop waves of abuse from accounts who "pile on in the moment."

The Facebook-owned service has also strengthened the in-app warnings it shows to those who attempt to post abuse - warning users that they face having their account removed if they continue to send abusive comments - and is rolling out its Hidden Words filter tool to all users globally, allowing people to filter out words, phrases and emojis they don't want to see.

Instagram said the aim of the tools was to give people more control while ensuring they feel safe when using the site.

The update comes amid ongoing scrutiny of social media and how it handles abuse after the racist attacks on England soccer players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka after the Euro 2020 final. All three players were sent hateful messages after missing penalties in the defeat to Italy.

Limits will be rolled out to all Instagram users globally starting on Wednesday and will enable people to decide for how long they would like to hide comments and message requests from non-followers and those who only started following them in the last week.

Also help for high-profile figures

The platform's new features will help filter unwanted, abusive messages before they reach a user (stock image).
The platform's new features will help filter unwanted, abusive messages before they reach a user (stock image).  © 123RF/ 2nix

Instagram's public policy manager for Europe, Tom Gault, told the PA news agency that Limits was being introduced to combat incidents like the Euro 2020 final, when public figures see a sudden spike in targeted comments and message requests in the wake of an event.

"Our own research, as well as feedback from public figures, shows that a lot of the negativity directed at high-profile people comes from those who don't follow them or who recently followed them," he says.

But the company had also found some public figures did not want to cut off comments and messages entirely because they often received many messages of support, he adds.

"Often the incident that caused the spike in comments is one which also leads to huge volumes of supportive messages from longer-term followers. People still want to hear from that community as well," he tells PA.

"So, that is why we genuinely think this feature will be so effective, it means you can hear from your returning followers, while limiting contact with people who might be coming to your account to target you," Gault adds.

The tool could also be expanded in the future to automatically prompt users to turn on Limits when the platform detects a user may be experiencing a spike in comments and direct messages.

Writing in a blog post announcing the new features, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri says: "We hope these new features will better protect people from seeing abusive content, whether it's racist, sexist, homophobic or any other type of abuse."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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