Instagram has launched a feature designed to tackle online bullying called Restrict.
The tool enables users to “quietly protect” their account from unwanted interactions while “still keeping an eye on a bully”. Users can activate the feature by swiping left on a comment, through the Privacy tab in settings, or directly on the profile of the account they wish to restrict.
Often, the victims of online bullies are unwilling to block or report aggressors out of fear of further abuse. Blocking or unfollowing the person could also make it harder to keep tabs on the bully’s behaviour. It is hoped that Restrict will help empower victims by allowing them to silently block unpleasant content without fear of reprisals.
After Restrict is enabled, comments on the account holder’s posts from the restricted person will only be visible to that person. This is also known as “shadow banning”, because the blocked person has no indication that others cannot see their posts.
The user can also decide to view the comment by tapping “See Comment”. They can then choose to approve the comment so everyone can see it, delete it or ignore it. Users will not receive notifications for comments from a restricted account.
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Restricted users will not be able to see if their target is active on Instagram at any given moment. Direct messages from a restricted account will automatically move to Message Request. The user can still view the messages but the restricted account will not be able to see if they have been read.
Earlier this year, when Restrict was first mentioned, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said: “Our mission is to connect you with the people and things you love, which only works if people feel comfortable expressing themselves on Instagram.
“We know bullying is a challenge many face, particularly young people. We are committed to leading the industry in the fight against online bullying, and we are rethinking the whole experience of Instagram to meet that commitment.
“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.”
This move follows as Instagram, along with its parent company Facebook, have come under increasing pressure to do more to tackle the problem of online bullying. They have also come under heavy criticism for failing to quickly enough to remove distressing and potentially harmful content. Politicians and campaigners have called for greater regulation to be introduced to enable better policing of social media and to hold the companies to account for failing to protect their users.
In a blog statement the company said: “We are committed to leading the industry in the fight against online bullying and will continue to build on that commitment long term. We look forward to sharing more updates soon.”
Recently, Instagram announced it would be taking action to impose greater restrictions on posts containing content related to diet products and cosmetic surgery in an effort to promote better mental health. In Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil the platform is trialling the removal of ‘likes’ and ‘views’ to “help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story”.
It has also said it will crack-down on content that promotes and offers tips on unhealthy and dramatic weight loss, in an effort to to stop the proliferation of “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” posts on social media .