Updated: Jan 13, 2021

“At Instagram, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people in our community. Over the past month, we have seen that we are not where we need to be on self-harm and suicide and that we need to do more to keep the most vulnerable people who use Instagram safely.”We previously talked about how using social media can have a positive impact on your wellbeing, when used in the right ways. However, we know that this isn’t the experience for every user and that fact isn’t news to the social media companies either. Positively using social media is something that requires an element of forethought, knowledge and self- control and those are things that the more vulnerable users of social media might lack (Heck, it’s something that many of us lack). It is then the place of the social media companies to step in and protect vulnerable users from things that could affect their mental wellbeing or have a negative influence on them, or even a dangerous one.

Sounds great! So, what have they done?

“At Instagram, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people in our community. Over the past month we have seen that we are not where we need to be on self-harm and suicide, and that we need to do more to keep the most vulnerable people who use Instagram safe.”

1. In October Instagram began to roll out a feature that means you can protect your account from unwanted interaction. The feature is called Restrict and is aimed at helping people stand up to bullying. Restrict allows the user to protect their account whilst still being able to keep an eye on the person that has been restricted. To restrict someone, you swipe left on a comment, go through the Privacy tab in settings or go directly on the profile of the account – and select the restrict option.

This sounds like a great way for younger users to take control and manage their personal experience on social media. If a user is being bullied online, it doesn’t seem fair that they should delete their account to avoid it, and the restrict feature also means that the bully won’t know they have been restricted so there is less ammunition for reprisal.

2. Also, during October they rolled out a new feature using AI, that notifies people when their comment may be considered offensive before they post it. It intervenes to give a moment where the user can reflect on what they have said and undo it before the recipient receives it. The early test found that it encourages some people to undo their comment once they have been given the opportunity.

We think that this could work well for those times that people act impulsively. Sometimes out of anger or jealousy a comment will be typed out that, once calmer, the user might regret sending.

3. Tackling hate online, Instagram has explored restrictions on who can go Live depending on factors such as prior Community Standard violations. They are also researching better technology to be able to quickly identify edited versions of violent videos and images to be able to prevent them from being shared. Furthermore, they have longstanding policies against hate groups and hate speech. Any praise of any terror attacks or violence is not permitted on Facebook and they use their existing AI tools to remove a range of hate groups. They have banned praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism across Facebook and Instagram.

This is such an important aspect of the responsibility that social media companies must protect their users. In particular, young or easily influenced users can be affected by hate organisations on social media and its great to hear Instagram taking this seriously.

4. In a bid to get users to focus more on telling a positive story, rather than focus on like, you are now unable to see how many likes are on posts, other than your own. This is aimed at reducing the comparisons that younger users tend to make about how many likes their peers are getting on posts and promote a more positive experience.

Unfortunately, there are generations of young people who value their self-worth based on their social media presence and it is our responsibility to make sure that this isn’t the case. Well done Instagram for taking proactive steps to reduce this on their platform and encouraging a positive experience for their younger users.

It is encouraging to see Instagram taking responsibility for the wellbeing of its users. There is still much more that can be done and for the sake of future generations we need to take issues surrounding wellbeing and social media use seriously.

“We know there is more work to do. We are deeply committed to strengthening our policies, improving r technology and working with experts to keep Facebook safe.”​

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