Social Media

Instagram is Rolling Out Tools to Identify Abusive DM’s

Instagram is rolling out a new tool designed to help users identify and filter abusive direct messages, or DM’s containing offensive words, phrases, and emojis. The new feature allows you to flag individual messages from anyone who isn’t your “friend” on Instagram; the company says it will then review these messages and take action against accounts that appear to be sending abusive content. The tool is targeted at celebrities and public figures who receive a large number of unwanted, harmful DMs.

The update builds on Instagram’s work to combat hate speech on the platform. In February, the company said it would begin disabling the accounts of users who sent multiple harassing messages. In 2018, the company expanded its offensive comments filter to automatically block comments that attack a person’s appearance or character.

The message requests filter can be toggled on or off in a new section of the app called “hidden words.” When it’s on, offensive messages will be pushed to a separate folder. DMs in this folder are concealed, allowing users to browse messages without needing to read what they say. If a user taps into a message, they can read, delete, or report it.

The company says it worked with “leading anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organizations” to come up with a preset list of offensive phrases. Users can also customize their list based on what they don’t want to see.

Instagram said the new feature will be rolling out to “several countries” in the coming weeks, though it did not specify which countries those are. The company plans to expand to more countries in the next few months.

Instagram noted in a blog post, “But combatting abuse is a complex challenge and there isn’t one single step we can take to eliminate it. For example, we know that many in our community, particularly people with larger followings, have faced abuse in their DM request inbox from people they don’t follow.”

As part of the announcement today, Instagram also said it is rolling out a tool to allow people to preemptively block new accounts from harassers. Now, when a user blocks someone in the app, they’ll have the option of blocking any new accounts that person creates. The company declined to specify how it does this, saying only that it uses a “variety of signals” to detect new accounts from those same users. The feature will be pushed out globally in the next few weeks.

Instagram noted, “Those DM requests will then be filtered into a separate hidden requests folder. If you choose to access that folder, the abusive text will be covered so you don’t have to see it, but you can tap to uncover it, should you wish to. You can then choose to accept the message request, delete it, or report it.”


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