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.

Mobile

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.
Social Media

Facebook is rolling out a Messenger ‘unsend’ feature, and here’s how to use it

Facebook is starting to roll out a "remove message" feature for its Messenger app. It lets you delete a message in a thread within 10 minutes of sending it, and replaces it with a note telling recipients that it's been removed.
Mobile

The 100 best Android apps turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

Choosing which apps to download is tricky, especially given how enormous and cluttered the Google Play Store has become. We rounded up 100 of the best Android apps and divided them neatly, with each suited for a different occasion.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Wearables

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 
Smart Home

Huawei could soon take on Google and Amazon with a new digital assistant

According to a report from CNBC, Huawei is working on a new digital assistant that could try to take on the likes of Google and Amazon's Alexa. Huawei already has a digital assistant in China, but the new one will be aimed at markets…
Mobile

Leak shows a third, budget Google Pixel 3 with a Snapdragon 670, headphone jack

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a third. A budget Pixel 3 device that boasts some of the best features of the other two has been leaked.
Mobile

Use multiple phone numbers on one device with Verizon’s ‘My Numbers’ app

For those who have separate phone numbers and devices for your work and personal lives, Verizon wants to help you get more organized. With its new "My Numbers" app, you can use up to four additional phone numbers on a single smartphone.
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Mobile

New iPad Pro’s durability in question after it fails YouTuber’s bend test

The new iPad Pro models failed a bend test that was carried out by popular YouTuber JerryRigEverything. The result raises questions about the durability of the tablets, especially since customers are also reporting bending issues.
Mobile

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to use it.
Deals

Black Friday 2018: The best deals so far

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!