Instagram aims to stamp out bullying with new tools

Tim Maytom

Instagram is getting serious about tackling bullying, harassment and abuse carried out using its platform, releasing new tools built on machine learning technology that aim to curb the problem, as well as a new camera filter aimed at "spreading kindness".

Machine learning will be used to proactively detect bullying in photos and their captions, with suspected content sent to Instagram's Community Operations team for review. This tool will be used to help Instagram identify and remove significantly more bullying behaviour, especially for people who experience or observe bullying but don't report it.

The photo-sharing platform is also adding a bullying comment filter on live videos, designed to ensure that Live remains a safe and fun place to connect with friends. The bullying comment filter was introduced several months ago, and enables users to list words or emojis that will cause comments to be hidden. Like the photo-detection tool, it also uses machine learning to filter and hide comments intended to harass or upset people, including comments attacking people's appearance or character, as well as threats. The expansion to Live covers all live videos globally.

"There is no place for bullying on Instagram," said Adam Mosseri, newly-appointed head of Instagram. "If people see that kind of hurtful behaviour on our platform, they can report it and we remove it. But online bullying is complex, and we know we have more work to do to further limit bullying and spread kindness on Instagram. That's why today we're announcing our latest tools to help combat bullying, including a new way to identify and report bullying in photos. As the new head of Instagram, I'm proud to build on our commitment to making Instagram a kind and safe community for everyone."

To support the launch of the tools, Instagram is also launching a "kindness camera effect" that it hopes will inspire positivity and good behaviour on the platform. The filter is being launched by dancer and actor Maddie Ziegler, who has spoken out against online bullying in the past.

Users who follow Ziegler on Instagram will automatically receive the new camera effect, and upon using it, can tag a friend they wish to support, who will in turn be able to use the effect. The filter is designed to spread organically in this fashion, although people who see it being used in their feed or Instagram Stories will also be able to tap a "Try it" button to add it to their camera.