Instagram rolls out new features in an effort to combat cyberbullying

instagram food
If you’ve spent any great deal of time on the internet, you’re probably aware that harassment is a major problem. Unwanted contact, trolling, cyberbullying, and even threats of rape and death have become the unfortunate norm in some online circles, and few users are immune. According to data compiled by advocates at Guard Child, 65 percent of kids between the ages of eight and 14 have been involved in a cyber-bullying incident and most tend to occur on social media — a recent survey found that 22 percent of American adults have been bullied or threatened online or know someone who has experience such harassment. The impetus is on social networks, then, to stem the abuse where possible and one company is leading the charge: Instagram.

On Tuesday, Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app for smartphones, introduced new features aimed at combatting cyberbullying and other forms of internet mistreatment. Three new tools — the ability to disable comments, the ability to “like” comments, and the ability to remove followers from private accounts — follow on the heels of a filter that lets users hide comments by keyword.

Arguably the most visible feature is the ability to ‘turn off’ commenting. By navigating to the Instagram app’s Advanced Settings menu and toggling the “Turn Off Commenting” button, Instagram users will be able to prevent followers from commenting on current and future photos.

“Comments are where the majority of conversation happens on Instagram,” Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s founder and chief executive, wrote in a blog post. “While comments are largely positive, they’re not always kind or welcome.”

The functionality, which was previously available to a small number of high-profile accounts, will be rolled out to everyone in the coming weeks.

It will land alongside the ability to “like” comments. Soon, Instagram users will be able to tap a heart icon to highlight comments they find particularly funny, poignant, or uplifting. Instagram describes it as  “promoting positivity,” and said that while the number of “likes” a comment receives won’t impact its visibility, the company might consider a ranking system in the future.

Lastly, private Instagram accounts now have another way to digitally block people they no longer wish to see: by ‘unfollowing’ them. Previously, public accounts — accounts that any user could follow — had to block users, which notified them of removal. Now, they can quietly unfollow users they would prefer not to see in their feed. “[There] was no simple way to undo that decision without blocking them,” Systrom wrote. “The person will not be notified that you removed them as a follower.”

Instagram reiterated it recently introduced tools allowing users to anonymously report people at risk for suicide or self-harm Systrom said the company’s staff would work “around the clock” to monitor reports of suicidal behavior.

The social network’s efforts come as incidents of cyberbullying climb. An Australian study by digital security firm Norton found that nearly half of 1,000 respondents had experienced some form of abuse or harassment online and almost one in four had received threats of physical violence. The impact can be dramatic: victims of bullying are at greater risk for health problems and over six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder compared to those not involved in bullying.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have attempted to curb online harassment with new online tools in 2016. YouTube rolled out a feature that automatically flags potentially abusive comments. Twitter introduced a quality filter tool which uses artificial intelligence to detect and hide threats, abusive language, and offensive content from Twitter timelines, and mute features that allows users to block out specific words, phrases, hashtags, Twitter handles, and emojis. On Monday, a coalition of companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft pledged to share a digital database to help stop the spread of terrorism propaganda.

Social Media

Instagram is about to start fiddling around with your profile page

Whether or not you like the look of your profile page, Instagram is going to begin testing various new designs in the coming weeks to make it "easier and cleaner to use." It's already posted a few ideas about what to expect.
Social Media

Facebook removes one-click comment test after users call the tool ‘dystopian’

A faster way to comment on posts sounds innocent enough, but when a Facebook test of the feature appeared on a story about a shooting, users weren't happy. The tool attempted to suggest one-click comments.
Social Media

Instagram purges fake followers, likes, and comments generated from other apps

Instagram looking a little more authentic? You can thank machine learning. A new tool is helping Instagram spot followers, likes and comments generated from third-party apps -- and this is just the start.

Instagram tool accidentally exposes user passwords. Were you affected?

Instagram's Download Your Data tool accidentally exposed the passwords of a small number of users. Here is the explanation on what happened, and how to find out which Instagram accounts were compromised.

Target’s Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…

Ceramic-backed premium Galaxy S10 may have 6 camera lenses

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.