Jul 15, 2019

Instagram Uses AI to Tackle Bullying

written by Abby Avery
Instagram Uses Artificial Intelligence to Tackle Bullying 

Instagram is finally starting to crack down on the issue of bullying and harmful material that is rife on their platform, although it has taken a number of high profile suicide cases for something to be done.


The power of social media

The power of social media has skyrocketed for years and is now an undeniable force in today’s modern world. Social media has transformed the way we connect and interact with people and changed the way we share information. It’s eradicated borders and the barriers of distance and has opened up a window to the world. It has created global communities and allowed us to relate to people and events all over the world. Social media empowers people and businesses, generates awareness and shares knowledge. Social media brings people together, offers recognition to those who deserve it and has helped so many incredible causes, both big and small. 

Amongst all of these benefits however, social media has a dark side. It’s a public and open space which is entrusted in the hands of everyone. Until recent crack downs, everyone was free to upload and write whatever they wanted, no matter how controversial, unsensitive, harmful or even illegal. 

On social media, we’ve seen people posing in front of tragic landmarks like Chernobyl and Auschwitz to fulfil the desperate need for ‘likes’. We’ve seen images of holiday makers posing next to drugged Tigers or killed Elephants and Rhinos. Footage of violence, self harm and lifeless bodies have been shared across social media platforms. We’ve seen fake profiles set up for the purpose of bullying, and for some people, reading death threats and harmful comments is a daily occurrence.


Bullying on social media

On Instagram alone, there are more than 1 billion active users every month worldwide, and a huge 60% of those users log into the platform every single day. A 2017 study by anti-bullying charity, Ditch the Label, revealed that 42% of youths have experienced cyberbullying on Instagram, which is more than any other platform. In November 2017, 14 year old schoolgirl, Molly Russel, reportedly took her own life due to the harmful content shared on Instagram. In June 2019, Selena Gomez, the 3rd most popular star on Instagram with 153 million followers, deleted her account due to harmful comments and the negative impact that it was having on her own perception of her body image. 

Following this increasing pressure and negative press, Instagram boss, Adam Mosseri has admitted that the company is “too slow” in addressing harmful content and “can do more” to stop bullying on the platform. Moseseri moved over from Facebook and took the top role at Instagram in October 2018, with the promise to make users safe on Instagram, even if it results in decreased usage. 




Instagram’s new anti-bullying initiative

This month, the roll-out of their latest feature has been announced, which utilises artificial intelligence to recognise when abusive comments are being typed into the app and then asks the user if they’d like to rethink what they are writing. Based on comments that are most often reported as inappropriate, Instagram shared an example of someone typing “you are so ugly and stupid”, which prompts a notice to appear on their screen saying “Are you sure you want to post this? Learn more”. If the user clicks “Learn more”, a message appears saying “We are asking people to rethink comments that seem similar to others that have been reported”. 

Whilst this doesn’t completely stop abusive comments on Instagram, it does give the user the opportunity to reflect on their actions and delete the comment before sending it. Instagram have said that they’ve successfully trialled this new feature and it has encouraged people to undo what they wrote and write something less hurtful.


A new alternative to blocking people on Instagram

To help empower those who are still being bullied on Instagram, an additional feature has been announced that will “restrict” unwanted interactions. Young people especially, often won’t block or unfollow a bully on social media as this could make the situation worse for them, especially if they see the bully in person. In response, Instagram plan to trial a less extreme alternative.

The new “restrict” feature will allow you to restrict a bully instead of blocking them. This means that they will still be able to see all of your content, but if they comment on one of your posts, only they will see it. You will have the option to approve the comment, but it won’t be made public without your permission. Restricted users also won’t be able to see when you’re active or when you’ve read their direct messages. Of course, a user won’t know when they’ve been restricted either.




What do you think of Instagram’s new features? Do you think they’re doing enough?