While Twitter's battle with on-platform trolls and harassment has been widely documented, the fact is that all social platforms have to deal with similar issues. Twitter sees the worst of it due to the real-time, public nature of tweets, but the vulnerability of users is a very real concern for all networks, and something all need to address.
Instagram's no exception - back in September, the platform rolled out a new user-defined, keyword moderation tool which enables users to block any words - and even emoji - that they don't want to see in their comment stream.
And today, Instagram has announced another set of tools aimed at "making it a welcoming place for everyone".
Here's what's they've announced.
1. Comment Control
As noted by Instagram:
"Comments are where the majority of conversation happens on Instagram. While comments are largely positive, they're not always kind or welcome."
To combat this, and in addition to the above mentioned filters, Instagram's now giving users the ability to turn off comments entirely on any post.
As you can see in the above sequence, to turn off comments for a post, you'll be able to click on the 'Advanced Settings' when composing your update and use the 'Turn Off Commenting' slider. You'll also have the ability to turn comments back on at a later stage, if you wish.
And while some may feel this takes the 'social' element out of a social media platform, there are times where people are experiencing an intense amount of negative comments on specific posts. Being able to turn them off provides another way to control this element and still post what you'd like - it'll be up to your followers to decide if they like or dislike the option in this respect.
2. Comment Likes
Instagram's also adding comment liking - users will soon be able to click a heart icon next to any comment to like it, which is aimed at "encouraging positivity throughout the community".
At this stage, Instagram, says they're not going to use comment likes as a means of ranking comments as they appear, so you won't see the most liked comments being pushed to the top of the list (as you do on Facebook) - though it is something they may consider in future.
Either way, the new feature could add another element to consider - you could analyze the most liked comments on your posts to get a better idea of community sentiment and interest, for example.
3. Ability to Remove Followers from Private Accounts
Instagram's also giving users who choose to list their account as private the ability to quietly remove people who're following them.
At present, if you switch to a private account, the only way to narrow down your audience is to block those you no longer want to provide access to, which is not always an ideal solution. This new option will make it easier to control who sees your content, and anyone you remove from your follower list will not be notified that you've done so, saving potential social angst.
To remove a follower, you'll tap on the '...' option next to the name of any of your followers and select the relevant option from the list.
4. Anonymous Reporting for Self-Injury Posts
And the final part of Instagram's update relates to reporting potential self-harm.
As explained by Instagram:
"If you believe that someone you care about may be thinking about injuring themselves, you can report it anonymously, and we will connect your friend to organizations that offer help. We have teams working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, around the world to review these reports."
These are all positive additions for Instagram - you'd like to hope such measures would only be necessary in extreme, isolated circumstances, but even if they do only cater for a small amount of interactions, they're valuable and beneficial to have.
As we've noted on SMT previously, tackling on-platform harassment and abuse is one of the biggest issues we need to address. Suicide remains the second leading cause of death for people aged between 10 and 24 in the U.S, an age bracket that incorporates Instagram's primary audience demographic, and as such, anything that can be done to help is a positive. While high-profile cases are the ones we most often see in the news, there are many more happening every day that we don't see, and we need to approach the issue with the highest concern.
It's great to see Instagram taking a lead and pushing to provide more options to make their platform an inclusive and welcoming space for all users.
Instagram says these new updates will be rolling out to all users "in the coming weeks".