Instagram says no to bullying on World Mental Health Day

by Elton Gomes

On Tuesday, Instagram said it will begin using new machine learning technology to detect instances of bullying in photos and captions. Instagram’s algorithm will then send these posts to Instagram’s Community Operations team for a human review. This announcement coincided with World Mental Health Day.

“Online bullying is complex, and we know we have more work to do to further limit bullying and spread kindness on Instagram,” Instagram’s new head, Adam Mosseri said in an official statement. Mosseri was named Instagram’s new chief last week after co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced that they will be stepping down.

“We are now using machine learning technology to proactively detect bullying in photos and their captions and send them to our Community Operations team to review,” Mosseri further said, NBC reported.

Instagram’s move comes after social media companies have been under severe pressure to better manage harassment and hate speech. Social media companies are facing an uphill task enforcing content policies due to millions of users.

What is Instagram doing to stop bullying

An Instagram spokesperson said that the new technology will be able to detect bullying and harassment, such as attacks on a person’s appearance or character, and threats to someone’s well-being or health.

The technology can identify bullying tactics. Some of these tactics include comparing, ranking, and rating images and captions, where a split-screen image is used and a person is compared to someone else in a negative way. It is still unclear as to what else can the technology detect and whether it would work on images without captions. Instagram has begun rolling out the feature and will continue to do so in the coming weeks, CNN reported.

Instagram said it will also be launching a “kindness camera effect,” which is a way to spread positivity to boost user engagement. While using the rear camera, the effects fill the screen with an overlay of “kind comments in many languages.” When users switch to the front-facing camera, and a shimmer of hearts and a polite encouragement to “tag a friend you want to support” can be visible, the Verge reported.

Instagram collaborates with Maddie Ziegler to prevent bullying

Instagram created its “kindness camera effect” in collaboration with actress and dancer Maddie Ziegler, who helped to putting together the effect. Those who follow Ziegler will be able to view the effect on their Instagram automatically.

“Being social online should be a positive, fun experience,” Ziegler told TeenVogue. She said, “I’m glad that Instagram is committed to stopping bullies with tools like the bullying comment and photo filters. I’m proud of their commitment, and I’m also proud of the new camera effect I helped work on that spreads kindness. Whether you’re shouting out your BFF or a person you admire, I hope this new Instagram feature is a force for positivity all over the world.”

Instagram filters out bullying comments

Earlier, in May, the Verge reported that Instagram was upgrading its offensive comment filter. The photo uploading app extended its comment filter to automatically wipe out bullying comments “containing attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health.”

The comment filter was originally introduced in 2017, with a focus on toxic and divisive comments. But the update expanded what gets hidden to include the aforementioned types of comments. Instagram allowed users to disable the filter if they would like to see the unedited comments on their feeds as well, but the filter would be enabled by default.

The growing menace of cyber bullying

Anger in cyberspace has been witnessing a surge and has proved to be a floodgate to release negativity among children and adults alike. Cyberbullying is often used to target and abuse others by posting negative content in the form of verbal abuse, threats, harassing texts or messages, online pranks, or posting untowardly adult content or compromising photographs of the victim.

Since internet addiction is said to be one of the key reasons for the rise in cyber bullying, parents need to supervise their child’s online activity. Cutting children off completely from social media might not be the answer. Parents instead should adequately supervise their children while they’re online. Children should be provided access to only those social media sites that are appropriate for their age. Parents are always advised to read the “terms of use” and check the minimum age of all websites.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
algorithmBullyingInstagramMaddie ZieglerWorld Mental Health Day