America has a cyberbullying problem. And for teens in particular, most cyberbullying is happening on Instagram. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Here are a few key statistics to illustrate that fact:
- A 2018 study by the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of teens use Instagram.
- Another study found that 59% of teens have experienced some form of harassment or bullying online. So the majority.
- In 2017, Ditch The Label reported that cyberbullying is most common on Instagram (42%), followed by Facebook (37%) then Snapchat (31%).
Over the past couple of years, Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, have been under serious pressure to get their act together. Facebook mostly for the fake news, extremist content, and data sharing. Instagram for cyberbullying.
There’s no simple solution to the latter. But in a blog post earlier this week, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri expressed his desire to “do more to prevent bullying from happening on Instagram.” And with that, he announced a couple of new features that are “only two steps on a longer path.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Feature 1: Rethink
The first new feature is powered by artificial intelligence that detects potentially harmful or insensitive comments as they are being posted. When a comment is flagged, the user will be hit with the message below, which essentially asks potential bullies: “are you sure you want to go down this road?”
The idea here is that, with an essentially mandatory moment of intervention and reflection before posting, users will opt not to post the comment.
Mosseri reports: “From early tests of this feature, we have found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect.”
Feature 2: Restrict
The second new feature announced this week is more optional than the first. The gist of it is this: Teens can be reluctant to report, block, or unfollow a bully out of fear of escalation. These seemingly simple digital options may lead to worse bullying IRL.
So how do you limit a bully’s ability to harass or impose generally toxic behavior on a user’s page without being so obvious? That’s the idea behind this Restrict feature.
Restrict aims to limit these interactions at the will of the recipient. Once restricted, comments on a user’s posts from a restricted user will only be visible to that restricted user. A user can, however, choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by opting to approve those comments. Additionally, restricted users won’t be able to see when a user is active or when they’ve read their direct messages.
Mosseri concluded his blog post with “it’s our responsibility to create a safe environment on Instagram.” He added that he looks forward to sharing more updates soon.