Online harassment is a plague that regularly rears its ugly head on social media. In a bid to limit its impact, Instagram has announced a new tool that will automatically filter out any direct messages (DMs) which feature offensive words, phrases or emoji.
The new tool is aimed at celebrities and public figures in particular, with Instagram clarifying that the filtering only applies to DM requests.
“Because DMs are private conversations, we don’t proactively look for hate speech or bullying the same way we do elsewhere on Instagram. That’s why we’re introducing a new tool which, when turned on, will automatically filter DM requests containing offensive words, phrases and emojis, so you never have to see them,” explains the social media platform’s blog post.
“This tool focuses on DM requests, because this is where people usually receive abusive messages – unlike your regular DM inbox, where you receive messages from friends. It will work in a similar way to the comment filters we already offer, which allow you to hide offensive comments and choose what terms you don’t want people to use in comments under your posts. You can turn both comment and DM request filters on and off in a new dedicated section of your Privacy Settings called Hidden Words,” it adds.
The company also noted that combating online hate is a complex challenge, adding that, “there isn’t one single step we can take to eliminate it completely.” As such it remains to be seen whether this new tool will have the desired impact. If it does, however, hopefully Instagram will think about rolling it out to its entire community, as celebrities and public figures are not the only ones who have to deal with online hate and abusive DMs.
For now though, Instagram says the feature will roll out to a select number of countries in the coming weeks, but it did not disclose which ones. Following that, the wider Instagram community should receive it in the coming months.