Instagram has rolled out new features designed to restrict abusive messages during sudden spikes. It will help users protect their accounts from abuse, including offensive and unwanted comments and messages. The company will introduce tools for filtering abusive direct message (DM) requests as well as a way for users to limit other people from posting comments or sending DMs during spikes of increased attention, such as when going viral.
“It was designed to stop abuse from large numbers of people who simply pile on in the moment,” Instagram said. “Creators and public figures sometimes experience sudden spikes of comments and DM requests from people they don’t know. In many cases, this is an outpouring of support – like if they go viral after winning an Olympic medal. But sometimes, it can also mean an influx of unwanted comments or messages.”
Instagram, in an official blog post, said their research shows that a lot of negativity towards public figures comes from people who don’t actually follow them, or who have only recently followed them, and who simply pile on in the moment. “We saw this after the recent Euro 2020 final, which resulted in a significant and unacceptable spike in racist abuse towards players. Creators also tell us they don’t want to switch off comments and messages completely; they still want to hear from their community and build those relationships. Limits allows you to hear from your long-standing followers, while limiting contact from people who might be coming to your account to target you.”
The new tool will let anyone effectively mute those who have not been long-standing followers. And it could be switched on or off at any time. Instagram is also rolling out its previously announced Hidden Words systems for everyone worldwide. The company said it had also expanded the blocklist of words, hashtags and emojis the system automatically blocked to filter out abusive messages, which individual users can also customize.
The platform has strengthened the language of pop-ups when users try to post a potentially offensive comment, warning their accounts could be deleted for repeat offences. The message clearly states the comment may contain racist language or other content that goes against its guidelines, and reminds users that the comment may be hidden when its posted as a result. It also warns the user if they continue to break the community guidelines, their account may be deleted.