Is this the beginning of the end of online abuse? Instagram will be rolling out some new options to protect people from abusive DMs, with the capacity to filter DM requests that include offensive words, and a new way to stop users you’ve already blocked from contacting you via a different account.

The main addition is the new filter tool for DM requests.

As you can see below, soon, Instagram users will see a new option to ‘Hide message requests’, along with comments, within their ‘Hide Offensive Content’ options. When activated, any DMs people receive that include offensive terms, as defined by Instagram, will be added to a new ‘Hidden Requests’ folder in their message inbox.

 

If people do choose to check these filtered DMs, the specific message/s including the identified terms will be hidden unless they explicitly choose to uncover them.

As you can see at the bottom of the first image, users will also be able to use their manually selected list of terms for comment filtering to be extended to their DMs, providing another way to avoid unwanted interactions.

As explained by Instagram:

“We’ve worked with leading anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organisations to develop a predefined list of offensive terms that will be filtered from DM requests when the feature is turned on. All DM requests that contain these offensive words, phrases, or emojis will be automatically filtered into a separate hidden requests folder.”

The new initiative comes on the back of a range of new DM enforcement tools that Instagram announced back in February, after various high-profile incidents involving UK football stars.

Instagram unwittingly became the source of various incidents of race-based attacks against players from Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, among others, who were targeted via Instagram Direct. Manchester United, in a joint statement with Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City, condemned the incidents, and called on Instagram’s parent company Facebook to do more to protect users from such, which lead to its initial response, which included tougher penalties for those found to be sending abuse via DM and a new option for personal accounts to switch off DMs from people that they don’t follow.

These new tools expand on those options, and will provide more ways for users to avoid unwanted contact, especially those in the public eye who regularly see abuse.

Most recently, various Premier League clubs, footballers and pundits have planned a ‘Social Media Boycott’ this May bank holiday weekend in protest against the online abuse they have been receiving.

“This boycott signifies our collective anger,” said Kick it Out’s chairman Sanjay Bhandari.

“Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. By removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change. We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family.”

In addition to the DM steps, Instagram is also adding a new way to stop people you’ve blocked from simply creating a new account and coming after you again.

As you can see below, the new option enables you to either block a user as normal, or block them ‘and new accounts they may create’. That process will use a person’s IP and other identifiers to ensure that if they do go to create a new account and come at you again, you’ll have to option to avoid such.

 

Which is a significant update. A key issue on all social platforms is that users who really want to harass you can do so by continuously creating new accounts. But by providing an option to block users, based on other technical factors, this could be a significant step towards providing more protection and limiting ongoing abuse within the app and will be ‘rolled out globally within the next few weeks’.

These latest changes to Instagram may be small steps to creating an abuse-free platform, but hopefully more of the social media giants will follow in the near future.

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