Could this new Instagram feature help combat online bullies?

Photo by Omkar Patyane from Pexels.

Bullying on social media and how to intervene amid a problem — or even know when a problem is happening — has been a highly discussed topic in recent years.

Instagram is introducing a new feature for which it is trying to create artificial intelligence that is smart enough to detect such inappropriate behavior.

There are already features in place, like flagging content or completely blocking a user, but Francesco Fogu, an Instagram designer who works on well-being, told Time magazine those may not be the way people want to go.

“They are often seen as very harsh options,” he said.

And in collecting user research, Instagram reported that teenagers are more reluctant to report or block accused bullies. It’s not hard to understand how raising red flags to an alleged bully could create even more problems for the user.

Blocking someone can make that person aware they’ve been completely removed, but Instagram’s new feature, Restrict, may have figured out a way to make it less obvious a person has been restricted. This may be the perfect solution for teens who are reluctant to completely block someone.

So here’s what happens with the new Restrict feature.

The accused bully will have no indication anything has changed. They will still be able to see posts from the user but will no longer see the user online or when the user has read their messages.

Video or image comments

If the accused bully comments on a photo or video posted by the user, the user will be able to approve it, delete it or just leave it in a pending state. The bully will never even know because to him or her, the comment is visible and appears normal.

But let’s say the user doesn’t even want to know that person has commented on anything. Cue what Instagram calls the “sensitivity screen,” which allows the user not even see the unwanted material.

Direct messages

If the restricted person sends a direct message, the user will not be notified, and the message will, instead, go to where spam messages go to live and die.

Tagging and finding the user

Though Instagram typically suggests handles when someone is trying to tag or mention someone, the accused bully will not get this luxury if they’re trying to call out the user. The accused bully will have to actually know the user’s full handle and type the entire thing out to even find them to make a tag or mention.

“The goal here is to basically put some space between you and them,” Fogu said.

Instagram representatives told Time that even though they are implementing the feature to help combat bullying, the real hurdle they face is informing users it exists. Because of that, instead of just sticking information about it in settings, designers and engineers are trying to find way to alert users while they’re using Instagram. For example, if a user is consistently deleting comments from a particular user, it could serve as an opportunity for a pop-up to inform them about Restrict.

Instagram plans to roll out the Restrict feature to all users by the end of 2019.

Do you think this feature could be a better and more discreet way of identifying bullying and avoiding it? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

h/t Time

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