Skip to main content

Instagram now hides offensive comments and spam, thanks to machine learning

how to use Instagram Stories
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Instagram is fighting back at offensive comments. In a blog post titled “Keeping Instagram a Safe Place for Self-Expression,” CEO Kevin Systrom outlined a pair of new features based on machine learning that aims to clean up responses to posts and live video.

The first is an optional filter that simply hides comments automatically determined to be toxic or abusive. It can be toggled on or off in the settings and is launching first in English, with other languages to follow. Instagram points out that if a few comments do manage to slip through the net, you are still free to delete and report them as before or turn commenting off entirely.

Another new feature uses similar technology to automatically block spam, and currently works in a multitude of languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, French, German, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese. This filter has actually been kicking around in some form or another since last fall, according to Wired, which states that the success behind it inspired Instagram to tackle the problem of hate speech using the same kind of algorithms.

As with anything dependent on machine learning, Systrom says these features will improve over time as more users report certain posts and share others. The company considers these measures a critical step toward fostering “kind, inclusive” communities on the network, though admits its work is “far from finished and perfect.”

Instagram is aware of the pitfalls of inadvertently curbing free speech in the name of protecting users, though the system is intelligent enough to take account of the context surrounding each communication. For example, the algorithms are more likely to favor someone you have had frequent and positive experiences with in the past than a stranger. In addition, a user who ends up leaving a blocked comment on one of your posts won’t know their comment has been hidden — preventing people from tempting the censors just for fun.

Comment filtering is just one of a number of new features that have made their way to the photo-centric social network in recent months, with the ability to archive posts recently undergoing testing.

Earlier in 2017, Twitter set foot on a similar path to curb abusive behavior by hiding offensive content and “less-relevant” replies that don’t contribute to a discussion. Unlike Instagram’s approach, the posts are still there — they have just collapsed automatically and can be viewed with an extra tap or click. Twitter also instituted a 12-hour probation-like system for users behaving violently toward non-followers and taken steps to ensure banned individuals cannot simply turn around and make another account to rejoin the network.

Adam Ismail
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Adam’s obsession with tech began at a young age, with a Sega Dreamcast – and he’s been hooked ever since. Previously…
How to use your iPad as a second monitor for your Mac
An iPad and an external display using Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.

One of the best parts of the Apple ecosystem is how neatly everything works together. Apple often gets flak for its "walled garden" approach, but when it works well, it enables the kind of productivity features that Android and PC rivals can only dream about. For example, you can use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac with minimal effort, and there's no need to fiddle with annoying cables and questionable software hacks.

Read more
You’re all wrong — 60Hz on the iPhone is fine
A video playing on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.

The iPhone 15 launch feels like it was just yesterday, but rumors of the iPhone 16 are already floating around. Some of the most recent have been bad news for enthusiasts, as it seems Apple is happy to stick with one of the more controversial elements of the iPhone 15: a 60Hz refresh rate.

While some people have dismissed this as tech-bubble griping that no one in the actual public cares about, there's definitely some fire to go with all this smoke. A 60Hz refresh rate, while not criminal, is starting to look increasingly comical on Apple's $799-plus smartphones. After all, almost every single Android smartphone priced at more than $500 now has a 90Hz or even 120Hz display — so why are two of Apple's best smartphones languishing with objectively worse screen tech?

Read more
One of 2023’s most interesting Android phones just dropped
Realme GT5 Pro in ornage.

Not too long ago, the Google Pixel 4 arrived on the scene packing a Soli radar system that allowed Motion Sense. It enabled you to snooze alarms, mute calls, control music playback, and more — all by waving your hand over the screen. LG attempted something similar called Air Motion on the LG G8 ThinQ using an array consisting of a time-of-flight (ToF) camera and an infrared sensor.

It was cool to see, but hit-or-miss in real life. Unfortunately, the idea died. Google never put the Soli system on another Pixel phone, and LG shuttered its entire phone division. But apparently, the fascination for controlling a phone with touchless hand gestures lives on.

Read more