Instagram debuts new feature to fight online harassment

Menlo Park, California - Instagram is giving users new ways to protect themselves from direct messages from strangers containing hate speech, insults, and other abusive content.

Instagram is giving users new ways to protect themselves from direct messages from strangers containing hate speech and insults.
Instagram is giving users new ways to protect themselves from direct messages from strangers containing hate speech and insults.  © 123RF/bigtunaonline

With the roll-out of the new feature called Hidden Words, Instagram will be able to filter out direct message (DM) requests that potentially contain abusive language and store them in a separate message folder.

"We’ve worked with leading anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organizations to develop a predefined list of offensive terms that will be filtered from DM requests when the feature is turned on," Insta's blog announced this week.

"We know different words can be hurtful to different people, so you’ll also have the option to create your own custom list of words, phrases or emojis that you don’t want to see in your DM requests."

Similar features could follow over time for Instagram's parent company, Facebook.

"You can turn both comment and DM request filters on and off in a new dedicated section of your Privacy Settings called Hidden Words," the blogpost continued.

As the majority of reported hate speech comes from new contacts and not current conversations, the platform will only filter DM requests and not the full inbox.

Premium users already have the option to block message requests from strangers altogether, but many people opt to keep communication open to anyone.

Always on the lookout to tighten security and improve user experience, Instagram occasionally trials new features, but they don't always work the way they planned.

Making it harder for bullies to reach users

"We’re also making it harder for someone who you’ve already blocked from contacting you again through a new account," the platform shared. This is a relief to anyone who has been the victim of repeat trolling by someone who gets blocked and simply creates a new throwaway account.

"With this feature, whenever you decide to block someone on Instagram, you’ll have the option to both block their account and preemptively block new accounts that person may create." The feature will be released worldwide in the coming weeks.

Instagram is not giving any details about how exactly they will identify repeat trolls so that it won't be easier for bullies to circumvent the measures.

Cover photo: 123RF/bigtunaonline

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