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Instagram is building the anti-harassment tools Twitter won't

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Sean O'Kane

Instagram has been building a series of anti-harassment tools and plans to roll some of them out to all users in the coming weeks. According to The Washington Post, Instagram will let each user create their own banned words list, which will stop unwanted comments from being posted on their photos. Users may also gain the ability to turn comments off on a photo-by-photo basis, so someone could potentially disable comments entirely if they wanted to.

While harassment on Instagram hasn't been as much of a story as harassment on other social networks, like Twitter, the development of these tools is still a big deal. Online harassment is a serious issue that any network needs to deal with, period. And flexible tools like a custom banned word list can let individual users take matters into their own hands to clear up their comments section, should someone begin posting hateful or otherwise offensive or tasteless remarks.

Every social network needs to prioritize anti-harassment measures

Having to create a banned phrases list on your own, rather than being able to rely on Instagram's own filters, isn't the perfect solution, of course. It still means that any person who cares about preventing harassment on their photos — likely the very people who are already experiencing harassment on Instagram or elsewhere — are going to have to put some work into stopping it. But the fact that tools will be there at all, and the fact that banned phrases can be updated at will, is a big step forward.

Instagram has already begun testing these features with celebrities — this is very likely what Taylor Swift used to stop all those snake emoji comments. Advertisers may also have been asking for this to prevent critical commenters.

"High-volume" Instagram accounts will receive the anti-harassment features first, according to the Post. The filtering feature is supposed to appear in "the coming weeks," while Instagram is still determining whether to widely roll out the ability to disable comments. Seems like a good idea.

Update July 29th, 6:50PM ET: Instagram is still determining exactly which features will roll out to all users. While everyone will receive some version of comment filtering, Instagram is still deciding whether to allow all users to disable comments on their photos. This story has been updated to note the uncertainty.