New Instagram features flag potentially offensive comments, allow you to quietly ‘restrict’ users

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Instagram announced two new features today that it said are designed to combat online bullying.

In both cases, the Facebook -owned service seems to be trying to find ways to limit bad behavior without outright blocking posts or banning users.

“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,” wrote Instagram head Adam Mosseri in the announcement. “Today we’re announcing one new feature in both areas. These tools are grounded in a deep understanding of how people bully each other and how they respond to bullying on Instagram, but they’re only two steps on a longer path.”

The first feature is supposed to use artificial intelligence to flag comments that “may be considered offensive.” In those cases, users are asked, “Are you sure you want to post this?” and then given the option button to “undo” their comment before it posts.

This might seem like a relatively tame response, particularly since users can still go ahead and post the original comment if they want, but Mosseri said that in early tests, his team found that the prompt “encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect.”

Instagram warning

The other addition, which Mosseri said the service will start testing soon, is the ability to “restrict” users looking at your account.

“We’ve heard from young people in our community that they’re reluctant to block, unfollow, or report their bully because it could escalate the situation, especially if they interact with their bully in real life,” Mosseri wrote.

So by using this new option, you can limit another user’s interaction with your account without making it obvious. If you’ve restrict someone, their comments on your posts will only be visible to them, unless you approve a comment for general consumption. They also won’t be able to see if you’re active on Instagram or if you’ve read their direct messages.

Mosseri described earlier versions of these features at Facebook’s F8 developer conference in April.

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