Instagram unveils new anti-bullying tools

Jeannie Matthews
July 10, 2019

Once a person is restricted by an account, they will no longer be able to see when that user is online, or when they've read their DMs.

Instagram officially unveiled a new way to fight cyberbullying on Monday with a feature the social media giant is calling "Restrict".

The new feature allows users to review comments and decide their visibility before they're displayed.

Bullying is just one of the many fronts on which social media titans have faced scrutiny in recent years. So, Instagram has now added two new features, one AI-based and the other relies on users themselves. When you use the upcoming feature to restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. Anti-bullying group Ditch the Label found in 2017 that 42% of 12-to-20-year-olds surveyed in the United Kingdom who were bullied online experienced it on Instagram. Instagram already has a good record of introducing such features to keep users safe from online harassers, and it's taking further actions to vent users from getting bullied on Instagram.

Using artificial intelligence, Instagram will alert users if their comment is considered offensive before it is posted.

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"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", Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram stated in a press release.

Instagram said often people don't block, unfollow, or report their bullies, because "it could escalate the situation".

The next feature is going to be way more useful, though.

[Photo: courtesy of Instagram] The second tool, which Instagram says will begin rolling out soon, is meant to empower the (potential) victim. "Some of these actions also make it hard for a target to keep track of their bully's behaviour". The restricted user won't be able to see when the account holder is online, or when they've "seen" a direct message.

There have been growing calls around the world for greater oversight of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, amid widespread criticism over bullying, as well as the spread of hate speech and fake news.

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