Instagram is toughening its stance on hate speech in direct messages. The company announced today that it’ll start disabling the accounts of people who repeatedly send hateful messages. First-time offenders won’t be able to send messages for an undefined period of time, but if they send hateful messages again, their account will be disabled.
“We’ll also disable new accounts created to get around our messaging restrictions, and will continue to disable accounts we find that are created purely to send abusive messages,” an Instagram blog post states.
Instagram’s hate speech policy bans attacks on people based on protected characteristics, including race or religion, as well as “more implicit forms of hate speech,” like content depicting blackface and anti-Semitic tropes. Instagram says it also cooperates with law enforcement when necessary to assist in hate speech cases.
This update to hate speech processes stems from a situation in the UK where soccer stars were targeted with racist abuse on Instagram after losing a match. Prince William, who is also the president of England’s Football Association, issued a statement last month saying “racist abuse - whether on the pitch, in the stands, or on social media - is despicable and it must stop now.” Four football clubs also issued a statement against the abuse, and the mayor of Greater Manchester pushed the social networks to step up in helping curb it. This procedural update could dissuade people from sending a terrible message but will also only work if Instagram can continue to quickly disable accounts as they pop up.