Abusive content flowing around in plain sight is not a secret on social media. Instagram believes "nobody should have to experience that" on its platform. But the issue isn't that easy to combat as there are many challenges. For example, tracking publicly visible comments is achievable, but Instagram can't track the contents of a DM, which is the most common medium of abuse and hate speech.
To fight this, the Facebook-owned media sharing platform has introduced a new tool that will automatically filter DM requests containing offensive words, phrases and emojis. The tool needs to be enabled from settings and it focuses on DM requests, which are sent from users not followed by you, unlike the regular DM inbox where you receive messages from your friends.
The tool will work just how the comment filter works -- which lets you hide offensive comments and block unwanted words that you don't want people to use. The feature can be turned on in the 'Hidden Words' setting under the 'Privacy Settings' option. In addition to letting users add custom words/phrases/emojis, Instagram says it has worked with some anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organisations to set a predefined list of offensive terms to filter out when the feature is turned on. All the filtered messages based on the custom and predefined list will be moved to a separate folder called ‘hidden requests.’ If you choose to go to the folder for some reason, the contents of the messages will be blurred unless you tap to uncover it by will.
This feature will be rolled out in the coming weeks, but only in selected regions such as Britain, France, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Other regions will get this feature in the coming months.
Users can use their discretion to report, delete or open messages, which will be sorted into a hidden requests folder, Instagram said. Starting in a few weeks, all users will also have the extended option to entirely block out people from contacting them on Instagram, after blocking their account.