Instagram Announces Anti-Harassment Comment Filtering Tool

Instagram has now joined the fight against online bullying. The popular photo sharing app wants its users to be safer from harassment. Instagram is now allowing its users to have total control over their comment section. The comment section will now be monitored and allow individual users to monitor the types of comments they choose to receive.

Instagram’s head of public policy, Nicky Jackson Colaco, released a statement to the Washington Post on the future of Instagram.

“Our goal is to make Instagram a friendly, fun and, most importantly, safe place for self expression…We have slowly begun to offer accounts with high volume comment threads the option to moderate their comment experience. As we learn, we look forward to improving the comment experience for our broader community.”

This new feature will allow Instagram users to filter out comments with words they feel are offensive. According to CS Monitor, account holders will be able to disable comments entirely on a picture-by-picture basis. The Washington Post wonders if this new feature has been used by Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West this week? Instagram made no comment, but this new tool has been tested on prominent accounts prior to its release.

Also, high-profile accounts will be the first users to use these tools once they go live in the upcoming weeks. All Instagram users will see changes to their comment section in the next few months, according to the Washington Post.

When do we draw the line between freedom of speech and just plain old online bullying? For many years, social media sites have chosen not to censor or monitor comments. Lately, there has been a great need for social media intervention when it comes to harassment online. Anil Dash is a blogger, entrepreneur, and technologist who took part in a panel that questioned what Silicon Valley can do to solve online harassment. Dash began building social media tools over a decade ago and now reveals his thoughts on online bullying.

“Ten years ago when I was building social tools, when people behaved abusively, I was the guy saying, ‘We believe in free speech, and people are going to be jerks, and it’s not our fault…I didn’t get it. And that understanding took me 10 years. I mean, I’ve been doxed by people using the tools that I built.”

This past week Twitter decided to take steps to address harassment. Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones left Twitter due to being attacked by a barrage of racist comments. Leslie voiced her grievances to Twitter for not enforcing guidelines in preventing online harassment. Twitter’s response was to suspend Milo Yiannopoulos’ account for being the alleged ringleader in the attack.

instagram anti harassment [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]Anita Sarkeesian is the founder of Feminist Frequency and has also experienced massive attacks of online harassment for being a female gamer. Sarkeesian told Wired, “When I think about solutions, I think about it in a three-pronged approach: a cultural shift, tech solutions, and then the legal aspect…There are already laws against this stuff. Sending someone a death threat is already illegal, so having it taken seriously is the third prong.”

While this is a great anti-harassing tool for Instagram, these same measures may be unique to the platform. For example, what works for Instagram may not work for Twitter or Snapchat.

According to the Washington Post, Instagram is still trying to determine which features will roll out to all users. It has been said that everyone will get some version of comment filtering — however, Instagram is still deciding whether to allow everyone to disable comments on their photos.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan /Getty Images]