Instragram Rolls Out New 'Sensitive Content' Filter Tool, New Safety Measures
Censorship on social media is always a difficult area. In most cases, content that violates platform rules and regulations is relatively clear-cut - detection is the key challenge - but then there are other 'violations' that may cross the line for some users, but not others, and may not actually break any rules. And given the scale of, say, Facebook, with 1.2 billion daily active users, such cases are coming up more and more often, purely through increased use.
So what do the platforms do? Censor too much and you get berated for restricting freedom of speech and twisting the news agenda. Don't do enough and your platform becomes a home for offensive content and abuse.
There's not, in any way, a simple fix. Just ask Twitter.
And while it doesn't get brought into such debates as much as the other networks, Instagram also has to face these challenges. For example, last year, an Instagram account called 'Genderless Nipples' was created as a means of highlighting the hypocritical nature of Instagram's moderation policies, which often censor images of naked women, but not men.
The account highlights the balancing act of censoring social content - if Instagram is to apply the same rules universally, there may well be images that many users would be offended by. The platform has long had to battle pornographic content, for example, which, you could argue, many images in this category might fall into. But then again, it is a double standard.
To help deal with this, Instagram has this week announced a new process which will see certain images which don't necessarily violate the platform's guidelines - but could be deemed offensive - gated, with a warning message overlaid on the content.
As explained by Instagram:
"Soon you may notice a screen over sensitive photos and videos when you scroll through your feed or visit a profile. While these posts don't violate our guidelines, someone in the community has reported them and our review team has confirmed they are sensitive. This change means you are less likely to have surprising or unwanted experiences in the app. If you'd like to see a post that is covered with a screen, simply tap to reveal the photo or video."
Facebook has a similar process in place, adding a warning on sensitive content, which users have to action to view potentially offensive material.
Such measures, of course, have raised the ire of many freedom of speech advocates - in the case of Philando Castile, for example, where Castile's fiancé live-streaming the aftermath of his shooting by a police officer, Facebook came under fire for not only censoring, but removing the post entirely. Facebook reinstated the content later, but such judgments on what's acceptable and what's not are what have put Facebook in a position where they need to defend their position as a media platform (or not). If they're making editorial judgments, they're a media organization - but is censoring potentially sensitive content an editorial choice?
Instagram could face similar questions, though you'd expect they'll be on less of a scale than Facebook - as noted, most of Instagram's controversies have been around nudity and porn, and this new filter option should help in those instances.
In addition to this, Instagram's also launched a new safety center, called 'Instagram Together', which provides an all-in-one resource for people to learn about the various measures available to them to protect their privacy and safety.
"You can explore tools such as account blocking, comment controls, photo tagging and more. You can also connect with support services in your country and read more about how we're building a positive community."
This, along with last year's introduction of comment moderation and reporting tools, adds to Instagram's capacity to help protect their users and ensure they feel safe to use the platform how they like.
And the final new safety measure announced by Instagram is the availability of two-factor authentication for all users.
Two-factor authentication was made available to some users last year, and it's surprising it's taken this long to be provided to everyone, considering its standard on most platforms.
If you want to enable two-factor authentication - and given the amount of high-profile hacking cases in the news of late, you probably do - go to your settings menu and you'll see the option above the "posts you've liked" section." Once enabled, Instagram will send a security code to your mobile number whenever your account is accessed from a new device.
As noted, Instagram doesn't come up as much in discussions about trolls and abuse online, but it definitely does have its challenges in this regard, especially given its popularity among younger users. These new tools will provide more options on this front, and while any kind of censorship opens a platform to potentially more questions, Instagram does have the advantage of being able to learn from Facebook's processes to ensure their tools align with industry best practice.
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