New design, new features, new users: everything is always new on Instagram. Almost everything, at least. Because the discussion about whether platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram are doing enough against the phenomenon of online hate is a pretty old one. But what is Instagram actually doing to prevent bullying, hate speech, and abuse?
Why does Instagram have a problem?
Theoretically, Instagram doesn't have a problem - simply all online platforms do. That's because hate and bullying have found a new home online. Many people online feel like they are operating in a lawless space and say or do things that "in the real world," they would never do or say.
Because many platforms have millions of users online and posting every day, it is a huge challenge to catch those who spread hate and attack people personally. Providers are constantly caught between maximizing freedom and protecting users.
When a platform is flooded with hate, users no longer feel comfortable and the company behind it has to face criticism or face worsening public opinion. So Instagram needs to watch its image. The company has two main problem areas to deal with: Attacks and hate via direct messages and hate comments under feed posts.
Artificial intelligence and emphasis on positive content
Algorithms keep everything running smoothly on the internet. They are also the biggest adjusting screw through which companies are able to make large-scale changes. Instagram is therefore relying on artificial intelligencein its fight against online hate.
How exactly this works, Instagram doesn't tell us. They do, however, admit quite publicly that positive content is more likely to be favored than negative. Violence, racist terms, insults - if the algorithm detects these things (or topic-related keywords) in a post, it's less likely to be shown to other users. At the same time, certain terms can be detected in real time, which is why certain posts or comments are not shared in the first place.
Whoever writes a comment or wants to publish a post may be warned that it could be problematic content. Instagram will then hold the post or comment for you for now, and you'll have to reconfirm that you really want to publish it. This gives Instagram users an extra hurdle when it comes to offending someone or sharing problematic content.
Blocking and Alternatives
The first idea most internet users have when they become victims of attacks is this: simply block That's because just about every platform offers the ability for users to block each other, i.e., hide posts and restrict communication.
On Instagram, this feature exists as well. Anyone who blocks another person will no longer see posts from them, and that person will not be able to send new direct messages. Slightly less aggressive is muting, where stories and/or feed posts simply don't show up on the home feed.
Last but not least, Instagram also offers a third option that is less common on other social media: restrict If you restrict another user, you get a notification when the person in question wants to send a message or post a comment - this must then be manually approved. This prevents insults or inappropriate content from appearing for all to see. The beauty of this is that the other user doesn't know that their comment has been restricted, they still see it. This provides the opportunity to "block" someone without drawing too much attention to it. After all, blocking or unfollowing sometimes only leads to more violent reactions.
Hate messages in the so-called DMs are a particular challenge. That's because since these messages are private, Instagram can't easily control them. Instead, many messages are first listed under "request."
If a user sends insults or hate via direct message, they can be reported by the recipient. In most cases, this results in a temporary account suspension In the meantime, however, Instagram states that repeat offenders will be consistently and permanently banned.
Reporting and user assistance
Instagram keeps trying new ways to protect its users. There are education campaigns and the features described above. Instagram also makes it clear publicly, time and time again, that "We stand up against bullying and hate on our platform."
But at the end of the day, it's a battle against windmills. Without the help of us Instagram users, the problem cannot be overcome. Thus, it remains necessary for every individual to keep their eyes open and when in doubt, use the following feature:report
Whoever sees an inappropriate post or comment can report it to Instagram. It will then be investigated and either deleted or it will be decided that it does not violate the user rules This is exactly where opinions differ: what needs to be deleted and what still falls under freedom of expression?
The year 2021 has yet to provide a satisfactory answer to these or any other questions about cyber bullying. All we can do on Instagram is be as conscientious as we can ourselves: Avoid insults and always remember that there's a real person on the other end of the conversation. Also, report things that catch our eye. And don't deny Instagram responsibility, but keep pushing for new ways to limit and combat internet hate.