Instagram has introduced new features called Limits and Hidden Words designed to reduce hate and abuse on trending posts, the company announced. The update is designed to protect its users, particularly creators and public features, from seeing harassing, racist, homophobic and sexist content in comments and DM requests.
The new Limits feature, available starting today, will allow all users to hide comments and DM requests from users who either don't follow them or only recently started following them. On top of that, the app will issue "an even stronger warning" and halt posting immediately if someone tries to publish an offensive content — rather than waiting for a repeat offense as before.
"Creators also tell us they don’t want to switch off comments and messages completely; they still want to hear from their community and build those relationships," said Instagram head Adam Mosseri in a blog post. "Limits allows you to hear from your long-standing followers, while limiting contact from people who might only be coming to your account to target you."
Instagram said that it developed the features following racist abuse directed at UK footballers in their direct messages. "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," said Mosseri.
We saw this after the recent Euro 2020 final, which resulted in a significant — and unacceptable — spike in racist abuse towards players.
The other new feature, Hidden Words, allows users to filter abusive messages in DM requests. If a request contains any filter word you've chosen, it's automatically placed in a hidden folder that you can choose to never open — though it's not completely deleted.
The update, available starting today, arrives after Facebook announced that it would make Instagram safer and more private for teens. Changes introduced last month include automatically making accounts private for teens under 16, limiting the ability of advertisers to target personal information like "interests" and using AI to detect a users' age.
The changes also come as Facebook explores creating a version of Instagram for kids under 13. While it's still in the early stages, the idea has drawn attention from Democratic lawmakers who've asked the company to detail exactly how it would work "given Facebook's past failures to protect children," they wrote. It is opposed by 44 state attorneys general, who wrote that "this is a dangerous idea that risks the safety of our children and puts them directly in harm’s way."