Online bullying affects people of all ages, and this toxic behavior has continued to thrive on platforms like Instagram, leaving young people especially vulnerable as they are less likely to report it. As part of an effort to change this, Instagram will soon be testing some new anti-bullying features. It's about time.
Instagram is making changes that can hopefully make a positive impact on both sides of the online bullying issue, helping bullies post less hateful comments and helping victims silence the haters more safely and effectively.
First, Instagram has already begun rolling out an AI-powered feature which notifies people that their comment may be offensive before they post it. This gives them a moment to reflect and re-think that mean comment before posting. If you're cynical about this feature's ability to make an impact, don't worry, there's more...
Secondly, Instagram will let users effectively 'shadow ban' their bullies with an upcoming feature called Restrict. Restrict empowers users in a very thoughtful way. Blocking or reporting bullies can lead to escalation of bullying behavior in real life, and make it harder for victims to monitor the negative online behavior. Instead, if you Restrict a bully, only you and them can see their comments (unless you manually approve specific comments). This means the hate will simply be spewed into the void where it belongs.
As a human person with an internet connection, I've been the target of negative comments from strangers, so I am very excited for the Restrict feature. In fact, if the other social media sites I use don't adopt thoughtful features like this in the next year, I'm ditching them for good. There's no excuse for them not to anymore.
Social media platforms have enabled bullying and harassment for far too long. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and all the companies behind the social media apps we're all addicted to cannot pretend not to notice that their technology is being used to harm people and that the tools they give to users to defend themselves are inadequate. Finally, Instagram is doing something about it. Let's hope the others follow suit. Otherwise, it might be time to say goodbye to certain apps...
Have you experienced online harassment or bullying? Are you excited about these features? Let us know in the comments.