Whether you've been the target of online harassment or you're just tired of all the spambots promising millions of followers, you've probably wondered if you can filter comments on Instagram. As social media continues to influence our lives both on- and offline, many platforms are finally changing their hands-off approach to moderating content. Most recently, Twitter permanently suspended a right-wing commentator from the site following his role in the negative comments directed toward Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones — a move that was applauded and criticized in equal measure. Facebook, on the other hand, relies on users to report inappropriate content for potential removal.
Instagram, however, appears to be taking a different approach to moderating content. According to the Washington Post, the popular photo-sharing platform recently announced that it will roll out a feature allowing high-profile users to ban certain words and phrases from appearing in their comments, or even to disable the comments section altogether. According to Engadget, it's currently being tested on accounts with a high volume of followers — in other words, celebrities whose comments sections tend to be rife with harassment and spam — but it's likely that the feature will extend to private users over the next few weeks.
Instagram's head of public policy, Nicky Jackson Colaco, told the Post that the move is part of an effort to make Instagram a "friendly, fun and, most importantly, safe place for self expression." The move comes a month after Tech Crunch reported a similar feature was rolled out to businesses as well.
With more than 500 million users, Instagram is one of the largest social media platforms in the world, many of whom are women. Although online harassment is a problem for everyone, women are disproportionately targeted; according to an Australian study published earlier this year, 76 percent of women under 30 years old had been harassed online in some way. This can take many forms — trolling, slut-shaming, doxing, revenge porn — but as The Guardian pointed out when reporting the study, the harassment of women online is dangerously close to becoming an "established norm."
Most social media sites let you block other users, but that doesn't stop offensive content from showing up in your feed. Instagram is the first major platform to consider putting the power of moderation in the hands of individual users, allowing them to prevent offensive content from popping up in their comments section in the first place. Because it's still being tested, the feature may not be exactly the same when it's rolled out to private users, but at least it's a start. In the meantime...
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