Instagram has developed a “machine learning” (or Artificial Intelligence or, more colloquially, AI) algorithm to detect and filter out bullying via photos on its platform, Tech Crunch is reporting.
Like all social media platforms, Instagram has a legitimate interest in curtailing bullying. Weeding out bullies, and their comments, makes the experience better for all users; and of course, it’s the right thing to do. And now Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, is deploying AI to try to catch what Instagram’s human moderators fail to notice.
Here’s the main issue: on Instagram, bullying comes to the attention of the moderators in one of two ways. The first way is the more old-fashioned way: a user sees a bullying statement and reports it. It then gets reviewed by a human moderator, who then decides “yay” or “nay” and proceeds accordingly. The second is more modern: software crawls the comments for words that trigger its bullying filters – curse words, for example, or words like “stupid” or “kill yourself” and so on. Once again, the flagged comments are brought to the attention of a moderator, and the same process applies.
You may have noticed a problem with these methods, however: a miscreant user can easily bypass having their text crawled by simply using photo software to write your bullying comment. Here’s an example.
Because the word “DUMB” wasn’t written as a text, in the comments, but rather embedded as pixels in a photograph, the older AI wouldn’t have noticed it. The new AI will – in theory, anyway.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson says that the feature will also be able to filter out bullying in live videos as well.
“Although this update only focuses on photos, we will be working to add protections for video, including IGTV, very soon.”
There’s no word on when the new AI will be live, but the company says it will happen “in the coming months.”
As Newton famously said, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And this law of physics applies to Instagram as well: to act as a sort of counter to its anti-bullying measures, Instagram has also rolled out a kindness initiative, according to Engadget. Teen starlet Maddie Ziegler has been brought on as the celebrity spokeswoman for the Niceness Camera, which floods a post with hearts and smiles and allows users to tag others who may want to spread the joy.
Wired writer Arielle Pardes is torn between thinking the whole things is the right move vs. being just a bit too much.
Cheesy, sure. But Instagram’s gotten this far by branding itself as the social media app that’s still fun to use, the one without all the toxicity and trolling. If the new anti-bullying features do their job, you won’t even notice them. You’ll just keep scrolling, wondering why the rest of social media can’t be this nice.