Instagram is the latest social media firm to tweak its app in an attempt to prevent harassment

Instagram on Tuesday announced policy changes intended to combat online bullying that has, for some users, turned the photo-sharing service into a platform for harassment.

Kevin Systrom, co-founder and chief executive of Instagram, said the social network is rolling out three features that give users more control over their online experience in an effort to foster a safer environment.

Over the coming weeks, Instagram’s 500 million users will begin to have the ability to turn off comments on individual posts, remove followers from private accounts without having to block them and “like” comments rather than just photos.

Instagram isn’t alone in tweaking its service to curtail harassment. Over the last year, Twitter and Facebook have added features in an effort to minimize online harassment and track those at risk of self-harm.

In September, Instagram started allowing users to moderate their comments section by blocking words they find offensive or inappropriate. Since October, Instagram users have also been able to anonymously report accounts that show warning signs of self-harm, a policy that its parent-company, Facebook, also has implemented.

“We have teams working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, around the world to review these reports,” Systrom said in a news release.

But change can be slow. Instagram and other apps such as Facebook and Twitter remain hotbeds for online harassment.

According to a 2013 youth risk behavior surveillance study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months before the survey.

Danielle Citron, professor of law at the University of Maryland, welcomes the changes because she said they give users more control over the content with which they interact. She noted that Instagram is merely catching up with policies already in place at Facebook.

“The most important thing is educating users about what is acceptable on the site,” Danielle Citron said.

Danielle Citron added that tech companies have come a long way in moderating user behavior, but that they can be more sophisticated and clear in their approach to what constitutes harassment.

As social media comes to play an even greater role in the lives of young people, it’s even more important to protect their profiles and posts from being hijacked by harassers, said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Sometimes, bullying is not done by one individual, but by several individuals,” Moutier said about cyberbullying. “That feels overwhelming to a vulnerable young person.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *