Instagram asks bullies to re-think abusive posts in new update

Instagram will ask people ‘are you sure’ before posting possibly bullying content Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Instagram is rolling out new anti-bullying software in a bid to reduce harmful comments on its platform.

  • How will the new feature work?

The new features will notify people before they post a comment which may be considered offensive.

As the person goes to upload the post, they will be asked if they are sure they want to continue uploading their comment.

Instagram users will be confronted with a message asking them if they want to continue their post. Credit: Instagram
  • What does Instagram say?

The company's chief executive Adam Mosseri said: “We can do more to prevent bullying from happening on Instagram, and we can do more to empower the targets of bullying to stand up for themselves.”

“This intervention gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from receiving the harmful comment notification."

Users will be able to report abusive comments and restrict access to their page through the feature. Credit: Instagram

He added that early tests suggested the new failsafe encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less harmful.

An example of how the feature works would be where a person types “you are so ugly and stupid”, and is then interrupted with a notice saying: “Are you sure you want to post this? Learn more”.

If the user clicks “learn more”, a notice tells them: “We are asking people to rethink comments that seem similar to others that have been reported.”

  • Why is Instagram introducing the new feature?

Online bullying is a "complex issue", Mr Mosseri said, and that Instagram had been using artificial intelligence to detect bullying for years.

“This is especially crucial for teens since they are less likely to report online bullying even when they are the ones who experience it the most,” he said.

Molly Russell, 14, took her own life in November 2017. Her father Ian says he believes Instagram is partly responsible for his daughter’s death. Credit: Family handout/PA

The move by Instagram comes following the death of British schoolgirl Molly Russell, 14, who took her own life in November 2017.

Her father Ian said he believed Instagram was partly responsible for her death.

Speaking at the NSPCC’s How Safe Are Our Children? conference in June, Mr Russell said: “It is important to acknowledge that they (tech firms) do a lot of good, but sadly their platforms are being used by people to do harm and they have not done enough to prevent that.

“Unless change happens, their platforms will become toxic.”

  • What else is Instagram unveiling?

Instagram is also due to launch another tool, called Restrict, designed to help users filter abusive comments without needing to block others.

“We’ve heard from young people in our community that they’re reluctant to block, unfollow, or report their bully because it could escalate the situation, especially if they interact with their bully in real life,” Mr Mosseri said.

“Some of these actions also make it difficult for a target to keep track of their bully’s behaviour.”

Mr Mosseri said restricted people will not be able to see when a user is active on Instagram or when direct messages have been read.

“It’s our responsibility to create a safe environment on Instagram,” he said.

  • What has the reaction been?

Bobby Norris, star of The Only Way is Essex, is campaigning to make online homophobia a criminal offence with Bobby's Bill.

He welcomed the move by Instagram and said he was grateful the social media platform had made a stand.

"I think it's all baby steps, but this can only be a positive...with people's intentions, nine times out of 10, I think you know if you are offending someone intentionally," he told ITV News.

"But for the one out of the 10 that might not know, the fact they're being asked to check before they press send, that can only be a good thing.

"For me, I take my hat off to Instagram for implementing this."