The photo-sharing app has applied several anti-bullying features aimed at decreasing the platform's incessant bullying.
The Internet. A place where you can buy Nicolas Cage pillow cases, visit a website that prompts you to hit a button reading “make everything OK” that only adds to your existential dread, and a cesspool for petty dweebs crouched behind screens dropping uncalled for hate in every corner they can.
In this week’s attempt to combat said dweebs, Instagram is rolling out a new feature aimed at reducing the overwhelming bullying on the platform. The photo-sharing app is testing two new features, a 'restrict' option and harmful comments warnings.
The restrict option is basically a less aggressive, more moderated block. Restricted accounts get to see your posts, but can not tell if you’re online, or if you’ve read their messages. It’s Instagram’s equivalent to being on a break for when sh*t gets too real. They won’t be able to slide into your DMs, their messages would be directed to ‘Message Requests’, and to view or reply to the message, you’ll have to un-restrict.
Unlike blocking, the restricted user will not immediately be able to tell that they’ve been restricted. It takes a simple click or two to find out, though - it’s not rocket science. In fact, all it takes is trying to tag the person. Usually, when trying to tag someone in a photo, you just type the first few letters of the handle and Instagram suggests them; but if that person has marked you as restricted, you’d have to type out the entire handle to tag. It’s a bit of a dysfunctional relationship one must have to restrict someone, and not block; they can still tag you - just with a bit of an added effort - and they need to ask permission to comment or DM you. This seems like less an anti-bullying, and more of Instagram’s equivalent of being on a break. Maybe that relationship needs to be assessed outside the digital realms, eh?
The second feature, comment warnings, can either be an accurate safeguard, or a hilarious disaster. The feature deploys an AI to assess if a comment might be offensive, and then poses the question, “are you sure you want to do that?” to the user and a pop-up that deplores Instagram's efforts to “Keeping Instagram a Supportive Place” comes up that asks if Instagram might have mistaken the user’s comment for a harmful one, when all you were trying to do is compliment your friends photo using one or two profanities. And while both features can limit exposure to bullies, the slight measures these restrictions provide can also instigate trouble.
Despite Instagram’s multiple anti-bullying efforts in the past, bullies continue to thrive on Instagram, and the issue knows no borders. According to UNICEF, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are cyberbullied in Egypt. Egypt has launched a campaign titled #IAmAgainstBullying in 2018, spearheaded by many a familiar face, from actors and icons such as Mona Zaki, Ahmed Helmy and Asser Yassin.
According to the BBC, the features are being rolled out first for English-speaking Instagram users and with plans to apply it to other languages soon.
Main image: CairoScene)