The photo and video sharing app’s new functionality works on keyword technology, automatically blocking comments on posts containing words, emojis, or phrases deemed to be offensive. Of course, internet trolls have been busy finding ways to circumnavigate this technology since its preliminary arrival in July, but the feature also comes equipped with the ability for users to add their own custom keywords and phrases to the block list.
“The beauty of the Instagram community is the diversity of its members,” said Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder, Instagram. “All different types of people — from diverse backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and more — call Instagram home, but sometimes the comments on their posts can be unkind. To empower each individual, we need to promote a culture where everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment. So, today, we’re taking the next step to ensure Instagram remains a positive place to express yourself.”
For mainstream publishers more used to premium content environments the openness of branded social media pages to negative and abusive external comments has long been flagged as an issue. Instagram’s new capabilities will come as a welcomed move, representing a shift in social towards a more moderated media environment.
It also comes at a time when the online publishing industry has been busy removing the comments sections from its own sites, recognising instead that the conversation around content has now largely moved directly onto social. With an approach that still allows for open commenting, but clamps down of specific negative keywords, Instagram may well have opened the door to a more regulated online future that balances freedom of speech with the protection of users.
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