Instagram launches new 'anti-bullying' feature that automatically filters out abusive messages

A stock image of a hand folding a phone. On the screen is the Instagram app, showing Instagram's official account.
The app says it worked with anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organisations. Credit: PA

Instagram has announced it will start automatically filtering abusive messages on its app.

The new update comes amid growing backlash over the treatment of Premier League footballers and other celebrities on the platform.

The 'anti-bullying' tool will allow users to filter out messages containing offensive words, phrases, and emojis sent from people they do not follow.

Instagram has created a list of what those offensive terms would be, working with anti-discrimination and anti-bullying groups, and users will also be able to add their own terms.

All message requests containing these words will be hidden in a separate folder, and if a user opens the folder the text will be hidden until it is tapped on.

They then have the option to accept, delete, or report the message.

Instagram says that all message filtering takes place on the device and does not share data with Instagram’s servers, unless the user chooses to report the message.

Last week, England defender Tyrone Mings became the latest football player to reveal racist abuse he received on Instagram, posting a screenshot of a message which included a racial slur.

It was reported that the Premier League was planning a social media blackout to pile pressure on companies to address the online abuse of players.

Users can choose words, phrases, and emojis that will be automatically hidden. Credit: Instagram

Instagram says: "We understand the impact that abusive content - whether it's racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other kind of abuse - can have on people.

"Nobody should have to experience that on Instagram. But combatting abuse is a complex challenge and there isn’t one single step we can take to eliminate it completely."

Instagram says it is also improving its blocking tool to allow users to not just block an account, but also block any new accounts created by the same person.

These new features will be rolled out in the coming weeks.