Instagram Restrict Lets You Avoid Bullies Without Blocking Them

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Instagram just launched a new anti-bullying feature that lets account owners block offensive language on posts. In an effort to boost online safety and curb cyberbullying, the social media platform has been testing the feature, called Restrict, since last July, Refinery29 reports, and it's now being rolled out. The new Instagram Restrict anti-bullying feature allows users to monitor language used on their account posts. If someone says something offensive on a photo you posted, swipe left on the comment to hide it, or you can restrict the user through the Privacy tab in Settings. You can also restrict someone via their profile, according to Instagram’s press release.

"Bullying is a complex issue, and we know that young people face a disproportionate amount of online bullying but are reluctant to report or block peers who bully them. Restrict is designed to empower you to quietly protect your account while still keeping an eye on a bully," the platform stated in the press release.

Restricted users can’t see when you’re active on the platform, CNN Business says, and they also can’t see if you’ve read their direct messages (DMs). DMs automatically become Message Requests once a user is restricted, Refinery29 says, and are no longer automatically routed to the recipient’s inbox. Once you restrict an account, only the commenter will be able to see their comments on your post — they won’t be visible to you or other users, says Refinery29. This way, you can essentially block someone without their knowledge, which is useful for people who may not want to fully block someone they know in real life. You can also reverse Restrict on Instagram, reports CNN, by approving the previously blocked comments. Additionally, you can tap ‘See Comment’ to view the comment yourself, or delete the comments entirely, according to the press release. And if you ‘Unrestrict’ an account, direct messages will go directly to your DM inbox again.

Instagram's Restrict feature in action. Photo Credit: Instagram

Instagram’s anti-bullying measures have been emphasized in recent years, a July 2019 press release states, and the platform is eager to combat the negative effects of online bullying as much as possible. Stopbullying.gov notes that, unlike traditional bullying that stops once a young person arrives at home, online bullying is vastly more invasive — and can be relentless. A young person’s mental health and self-esteem can be severely harmed as a result.

Teen users are especially vulnerable to online bullying, the Instagram press release states, while being less likely to report it. The AI-powered Restrict feature gives users more control over their Instagram accounts, but makes blocking a concealed move, since the restricted user can’t see that they’ve been banned. The feature is designed to help account owners feel safer when using the platform, and doesn’t draw attention to a block if a user needs to interact with their bully in real life.

The social media platform has been using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect harmful language on posts for several years, according to Refinery29. Another AI-powered feature alerts users that their comments might be offensive before they go live. The notification encourages users to reflect on their comments and delete them before they get posted.

If you’re experiencing bullying online or off, reach out for help. A friend or family member, a therapist, or a bullying intervention hotline can offer support while helping you find solutions. Contact someone you trust and let them know what’s happening. Being mindful about who you engage with online is also important. Keeping your friends list limited to people you know well can help. If something doesn’t feel right, or you don’t like how someone is communicating with you, it’s absolutely OK to disengage and get support.