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Instagram institutes harsher rules to control harassment, porn, and nudity

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The guidelines have evolved from 'Don't be mean' to 'Don't Harass'

Instagram revealed new community guidelines today that were designed to cut down on harassment and pornography. This is the biggest change to the guidelines since Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012, and it helps clarify rules that critics and parents complained were too lax and users complained were overreaching and enforced with double standards.

The photo-sharing app framed the changes as a tougher, less polite stance in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:

"In the old guidelines, we would say ‘don’t be mean,'" said Nicky Jackson Colaco, director of public policy for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. "Now we’re actively saying you can’t harass people. The language is just stronger."

For example, Instagram’s previous guidelines asked users to be polite and respectful. The revised version is much longer and specifies that "serious threats of harm to public and personal safely aren’t allowed."

The most useful updates, however, may be in spelling out the details about what can be shared and what won't be tolerated, like the section on nudity:

We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.

The efficacy and fairness of the new rules will be tested by how they're enforced, especially now that the service is up to 300 million monthly unique users. The app reviews images "that prompt complaints from users," according to the Journal.