Cyberbullying is no new phenomenon and Instagram also recognises it to be a big issue. You’ve probably heard cases of cyberbullying gone wrong and social media being the main catalyst of it all. This is why Instagram is now introducing two new features to help curb the growing problem on their platform.
“It’s our responsibility to create a safe environment on Instagram,” Adam Mosseri, Instagram Head said in a statement.
While it seems that Instagram has come out with these preventive measures with the best intentions, many are skeptical if they will even help in aiding the problem. So what exactly are these new Instagram features and will they actually prevent cyberbullying from happening? We break it down for you.
1. So now I’ll get a warning before I post any comment?
Well, yes and no. Instagram’s new feature makes it so that if you are writing a potentially offensive comment, you will get a warning before you are able to post your comment. Instagram uses artificial intelligence to determine whether your comment is offensive. As Instagram will be scanning for particular keywords in your comment without taking into account the tone of voice of your message, they won’t be able to tell if you are just joking around and affectionately teasing your friend in a comment. This could mean that you might get a warning notification popping up before even if your message to your friend wasn’t meant to be rude and wouldn’t be read as offensive to the recipient of your comment.
2. But how is a comment warning even going to help?
By giving people a form of intervention before they post their comments, Adam says that “[it] gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment.” But will people really stop saying what they want to say, just because of a small warning? In a way, yes. Adam reveals that in Instagram’s early tests of the feature, they “found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect”. Maybe it’s harder to go through with leaving a mean comment right after you’re called out by a computer/phone for being mean.
3. I can now restrict people from commenting?
Instagram will also be implementing a feature which will allow people to pick out and identify potential ‘bullies’ (or just people they hate) and restrict them. By restricting someone, their comments will have to get your approval before it’s seen under your post. You can also choose to delete the comment or leave it in a way that it is only seen by them. This is pretty useful, if not to deter bullies, to help you filter out annoying comments you might always get from the people you dislike. The people in your restrict list will also not be able to see whether you are online on Instagram and if you have seen the messages that they have sent you on Instagram DM. (It’s basically a way to ‘turn off your last seen’) In fact, their messages will go to your message request inbox rather than your main message inbox.
4. But why would we need such a feature?
Instagram’s reasoning behind this is extremely relatable. They understand how there are some people in our lives we just dislike or hate, but have no choice but to interact with them. Since blocking them or unfollowing them might be too direct and a very obvious, visible to everyone, show of your dislike of them, this feature lets you do it in private. It basically helps you play by social rules even while you block out the people you hate.
5. Can I tell who restricted me?
While you will not be receiving a message notifying you that someone has restricted you, it isn’t exactly hard to find out if you’ve been restricted by someone. While tagging people in photos, if you are following someone, you will be able to find their username after you type ‘@’ and the first few letters of their Instagram handle. However, if you’ve been restricted, you will realise you will have to type out their entire Instagram handle to find their profile.
6. What other features does Instagram have right now?
If you are looking to tune out some negativity, Instagram already has a few features in place to help with that. You can mute someone, which prevents you from seeing someone’s post. This works on both their Instagram post and Instagram stories. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Instagram also allows users to continue following people while taking them out of your follower list. This is perfect if you don’t want someone to be able to see what you are posting anymore. People often pay more attention to their number of followers rather than their number of following. So while they might one day realise they can no longer see your post, it may take them a while to figure it out you’ve removed their access to your posts.
7. Will these measures work in stopping cyberbullying?
While this is a good effort on Instagram’s part to try to reduce the occurrence of online bullying, it is impossible for these measures to completely eradicate the problem. As much as Instagram tries to protect their users from cyberbullying, the real issue lies with the people who use it, the cyber bullies who won’t let a warning message them stop them from sending hate. What we can do is just to be mindful of our words, filter out the negativity and to report cases of cyberbullying when we see it happening.
If you or someone you know anyone is getting cyber-bullied, don’t stay silent. Here are some places at which you can find help:
Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth (CABCY)
Tel: +65 6223 3122
TOUCH Cyber Wellness
Tel: 1800 377 2252
Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT)
Tel: +65 6493 6500, +65 6493 6501