This week the hugely popular social networking platform Instagram,
announced the launch of its new features designed to tackle messages which
might be considered as bullying or harassment.
According to an article on the company’s blog ‘We can do more to prevent bullying from happening on Instagram, and we can do more to empower the targets of bullying to stand up for themselves’.
Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram) says ‘ The intervention gives people a
chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from
receiving the harmful comment notification’.
This sounds great. Instagram are
right. They badly need to focus on abusive posts. The new feature tool encouraging the
opportunity for reflection and the chance to undo is very welcome. We’ve all
texted posted on impulse. And regretted
it later. The statement is however
misleading in that it will not always ‘prevent the recipient from receiving the
harmful comment notification’. Instagram
did however admit that at test it worked with ‘some people’. We’ll take that.
Some is better than none and it’s time reflection tools were introduced.
We’re big fans of social media and social media companies taking more
responsibility for what happens on their platforms so were pleased to see
Instagram making efforts in this area.
While bullying is an age old problem offline, online it happens
predominately via social networks and gaming so it’s vital the companies make
efforts here. Let’s face it, there are
very few social media platforms where some form of bullying, harassment or
abusive behavior doesn’t take place.
So let’s take a look at how
the new features work.
The first feature being rolled out claims to be ‘AI that notifies people when their comment may be considered offensive before it’s posted’ and supposedly detects ‘bullying and other types of harmful content in comments, photos and videos’.
So how effective is this?
Given that there are many different variations of words and also
messages contained in images and videos, sometimes this can be difficult to pick
up or detect.
Having worked on a previous project along content identification on a
huge scale, using algorithms, I know from experience this is something which is
difficult to get correct/right a lot of the time.
Secondly does it actually stop the bullying and other abuse?
Does it stop it, make the poster think or just give a subtle prompt?
The second feature called ‘Restrict’ is not something which is innovative
or new. In fact this feature has been
widely available for years (shadow banning) though again it’s good to see it
being used on a prolific platform like Insta.
The idea is that the person targeted with the abusive posts can prevent
them from being seen publicly. Their
messages are purged elsewhere. The main
reason for this feature is that the poster of abusive comments still thinks
they are posting publicly. When they get no engagement the idea is that they
will hopefully get bored/stop.
In a nutshell the ‘Restrict’ feature works along the same principal according
to Instagram ‘Once you Restrict someone, comments on your posts from that
person will only be visible to that person. You can choose to make a restricted
person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments’.
Anyone involved in any type of mental health or psychological sphere
will tell you that developing technology around these types of harassing or
bullying behaviours will take time and we’ll not see the impact for some time
and only then with a complex combination of both human processes and machine
learning. The examples used by
Instagram on posts use very basic language eg ‘You are so ugly’. In real online
life abusive language is a lot more nuanced and therefore harder for AI to
detect. Nonetheless, they are steps in the right direction.
Wayne Denner is a speaker, author and expert on Online Reputation and Wellbeing. Wayne helps young people protect and improve their digital presence. Visit waynedenner.com for more information.