Instagram has been in the news this summer after Black soccer stars in England were bombarded with racist messages following their team’s Euro 2020 final loss. Today, the company’s trying to prevent some of that behavior from happening again with the introduction and expansion of three safety features.
Among them is something called “limits.” Turning this on prevents anyone who doesn’t follow you, or who recently followed you, from commenting or sending a DM. The feature is available to everyone globally today, and Instagram points out that it’ll likely be most useful to businesses and creators who expect a flurry of responses. Of course, turning comments or DMs off entirely would also work, but Instagram says this is a solution for people who still want the possibility of positively engaging with their community. The company says it’s also “exploring ways” to preemptively suggest that people turn this feature on when it detects a spike in activity.
Additionally, Instagram is building out its hidden words feature that launched in April, which allows people to automatically filter DMs with offensive words, phrases, and emoji, relegating them to a hidden folder. The feature now has a wider list of potentially offensive words, emoji, and hashtags. And finally, the app is issuing sterner warnings to people who try to post offensive comments. (This type of messaging already existed but only appeared if someone attempted to post multiple times.)
“We hope these new features will better protect people from seeing abusive content, whether it’s racist, sexist, homophobic or any other type of abuse,” the company writes in a press release. “We know there’s more to do, including improving our systems to find and remove abusive content more quickly, and holding those who post it accountable.”
The racist harassment of the soccer stars — Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho — pushed Prince William and UK prime minister Boris Johnson to speak out, along with England’s Football Association. Instagram clearly had to do something, and these new features may offer some help, at least to the people who find them.