Instagram announced a series of features designed to protect users — particularly celebrities and high-profile creators — from hateful comments posted by users who are not among their regular followers.
The Facebook-owned app is launching Limits, a new feature that will automatically hide comments and direct-message requests from people who don’t follow you or who only recently followed you. Instagram says this should be helpful for public figures experiencing a spike in abusive comments or DMs — such as the torrent of racist threats directed at English soccer players after their team lost the Euro 2020 final last month.
A second feature is Hidden Words, an opt-in feature Instagram launched in several countries earlier this year that is now rolling out globally. Hidden Words automatically filters abusive DM requests into a hidden folder so you never have to see them.
In addition, Instagram will display “stronger warnings” for people who try to post potentially offensive comments, a feature execs say has been shown to discourage people from posting objectionable material.
“We hope these new features will better protect people from seeing abusive content, whether it’s racist, sexist, homophobic or any other type of abuse,” Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post.
Instagram developed Limits after seeing creators and public figures experiencing surges of comments and DM requests from people they don’t know. In some cases, it’s an outpouring of support — like if an athlete goes viral after winning an Olympic medal — but it also can be of unwanted comments or messages, as what happened after the Euro 2020 final.
“Our research shows that a lot of negativity towards public figures comes from people who don’t actually follow them, or who have only recently followed them, and who simply pile on in the moment,” according to Mosseri.
The Limits feature lets creators continue to receive comments from longtime followers, while “limiting contact from people who might only be coming to your account to target you,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Instagram has previously shown warnings when someone tries to post a potentially offensive comments — and if they try to post the same thing multiple times, the app shows an even stronger warning. Now, “rather than waiting for the second or third comment, we’ll show this stronger message the first time,” according to Mosseri.
In the last week, Instagram showed warnings saying “This may go against our guidelines” about 1 million times daily on average. Of these, about half were edited or deleted by the user who was shown such warnings.
“We know there’s more to do, including improving our systems to find and remove abusive content more quickly, and holding those who post it accountable,” Mosseri added.