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Instagram’s New Anti-Bullying Feature Will Give More Power to People Who Are Being Harassed

Instagram is debuting two new features to curb the growing problem of bullying and harassment on the social network.

But Instagram hopes its two new features will prevent bullying in the first place as well as provide tools to those who are being bullied.

One of Instagram’s new features, which started rolling out over the last few days, uses artificial intelligence to flag comments that may be offensive. The system then notifies the commenter about the potential violation, all before anything is posted. The notice says, "Are you sure you want to post this?" and directs the user to read more about Instagram's policy around bullying and offensive content.

The second feature, which is still being tested, will allow users to restrict other users from their profiles. Once a user is restricted, his or her comments on that specific profile won't be visible to the public. He or she also won't be able to see whether the user that restricted him/her is online or whether that user has read a direct message from them.

“We can do more to prevent bullying from happening on Instagram, and we can do more to empower the targets of bullying to stand up for themselves,” Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post on Monday. “These tools are grounded in a deep understanding of how people bully each other and how they respond to bullying on Instagram, but they’re only two steps on a longer path.”

Neither harassment and bullying nor Instagram's efforts to fight the issues are new. Bullying has been part of the dark side of Instagram and other social networks for years.

In 2017, under then-CEO Kevin Systrom, Instagram created an option for users to hide comments on their posts. The filter used artificial intelligence to identify spammy and offensive comments in nine languages. In 2018, the company began filtering comments that attacked a person’s appearance or character or contained threats.

Instagram expanded the initiative later that year by using artificial intelligence to proactively detect bullying in photos and captions, and flag them for review by Instagram’s Community Operations team. It also applied the bullying comment filter to Instagram’s live videos.

Facebook has been working to improve how often it proactively manages bullying and harassment across its family of apps, including Instagram. In May, the company reported that it took action on 2.6 million pieces of bullying or harassing content during the first quarter. Of that content, Facebook only proactively found 14.1% before users reported it.

In his blog post on Monday, Mosseri said that Instagram will continue to invest in tackling the problem and expects to share more updates in the near future.