Instagram said it would introduce new measures to help protect its users from abuse on the platform, including a feature that will limit unwanted comments and message requests from people seeking to target a user.
The Facebook owned platform will also feature stronger warnings when people try to post potentially offensive comments, and will roll out the "hidden words" feature that allows people to filter abusive direct message requests.
The new Limits feature can be turned on if people anticipate or are in the midst of a rush of abusive comments and direct messages. Once activated, it will automatically hide comments and message requests from people who don’t follow the account, or recent followers. It will allow Instagram users to filter out much of the abuse while also being able to interact with their established community.
"We developed this feature because we heard that 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, " said Instagram head Adam Moseri. "Our 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."
The feature is available to all accounts and can be turned on in the settings as and when it is needed. Instagram is also looking at how it can alert users to a spike in comments and messages, to prompt people to switch the feature on.
The Euro 2020 final between England and Italy saw a spike in racist abuse online towards players, particularly Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. The problem wasn't confined to Instagram; Twitter on Tuesday said it had removed almost 2,000'racist, abusive tweets after the final, with the majority of the accounts responsible originating in the UK.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged last month to toughen measures against online racist abuse of players, including potential fines for social media companies that fail to remove it.
Instagram said users who try to post potentially offensive comments will also be shown stronger warnings in a bid to dissuade them from posting it. “We’ve found these warnings really discourage people from posting something hurtful,” Mr Moseri said.
Instagram is also making its “Hidden Words”’feature available globally by the end of the month. Introduced in a number of countries in April, it automatically filters message requests that contain common offensive phrases into a separate hidden requests folder.
At the time, the platform said it was concentrating on the requests rather than direct messages themselves as the latter are usually from people known to the users; it does not routinely look for hate speech and bullying in private conversations.
The platform has now added to its list of potentially offensive words and emojis that are automatically filtered from comments, and introduced an option for users to hide comments that may not break the rules of the platform but could be harmful.
“We know there’s more to do, including improving our systems to find and remove abusive content more quickly, and holding those who post it accountable,” Mr Moseri said. “We also know that, while we’re committed to doing everything we can to fight hate on our platform, these problems are bigger than us. We will continue to invest in organisations focused on racial justice and equity, and look forward to further partnership with industry, governments and NGOs to educate and help root out hate.”