Instagram is stepping up its efforts to protect users from bullying and abuse via DMs, with tougher enforcement for those who repeatedly violate platform rules, and an expansion of the option to switch off DMs for selected user groups.
As explained by Instagram:
"We want Instagram to be a place for people to connect with the people and things they love. But we also know that, just like in the offline world, there will always be those who abuse others. We’ve seen it most recently with racist online abuse targeted at footballers in the UK. We don’t want this behavior on Instagram."
Instagram has seen various incidents of racial-based attacks against high profile footballers in the UK of late, with players from Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, among others, being targeted via their Instagram Direct inbox. Manchester United, in a joint statement with Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City, has condemned these acts, and has called on Instagram's parent company Facebook to do more to protect users from such.
But the fact that these incidents have happened in direct messages has complicated things, as noted by Instagram:
"Because DMs are for private conversations, we don't use technology to proactively detect content like hate speech or bullying the same way we do in other places. But there are still more steps we can take to help prevent this type of behavior."
In line with this, Instagram has announced a range of new measures to combat such incidents.
First off, Instagram says that it will now disable the accounts of people who send abusive DMs.
"Currently, when someone sends DMs that break our rules, we prohibit that person from sending any more messages for a set period of time. Now, if someone continues to send violating messages, we’ll disable their account. We’ll also disable new accounts created to get around our messaging restrictions, and will continue to disable accounts we find that are created purely to send abusive messages."
That's another key point of concern, as people can simply create new accounts and keep up their abuse on the platform. Now, Instagram's toughening its approach to such, which should act as a stronger deterrent.
In addition to this, Instagram's looking to give personal accounts the option to switch off DMs from people they don’t follow, which is currently available on business and creator accounts.
"We’ve started rolling these controls out to personal accounts in many countries, and we hope to make them available to everyone soon. And people can also choose to turn off tags or mentions from anyone they don’t know or block anyone who sends them unwanted messages."
Instagram says that it's also working on new features to filter out abusive messages via Direct, which it's hoping to roll out shortly.
It's good to see Instagram taking a tougher stand, and making a public statement about unacceptable user behavior. This is a key opportunity for the platform, given the high-profile nature of the victims, and Instagram should use this as a platform to underline that such attacks will not be tolerated in any form.