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

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.

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.


That’s cool, but like I laid out in this article, it’s something Twitter really can’t implement, so let’s not be too harsh on them.

Comments are actionable from your account, you can delete them. This will just prevent them from being made in the first place. You can’t stop people from making their own Instagram posts and harassing you from there (unless you block them).

But Twitter doesn’t use comments and you can’t prevent other people from making tweets mentioning you (you can block/mute them tho, which achieves a similar yet different event.

There is a possibility of Twitter having a similar filter that doesn’t show you tweets with specific phrases in your @Reply’s, that you can decide on. As well as being able to limit the @reply’s you see by something like the follower count of @reply’ers. Therein you only see Tweets from more influential people. Maybe even a way to temporarily disable @reply’s from linking to your username for a specific time period. That didn’t take much thinking through on my part. There are ways.

Considering how $=s, 3=e, 1=L 7=t etc etc, how hard will it work around such a list? Good luck trying to maintain that.

If they can offer word lists to subscribe to, in addition to personal word lists, that would be ideal. Some people may want to offer more freedom on their photos than others.

"₢un7", "B1t₢h", "a$$holl3"… Good luck blocking words.

YouTube does a pretty decent job at it for those channels who have filtered comment sections (very few). People don’t even realize that their comment isn’t publicly visible. All you have to input as a creator is a list of words & Google/YouTube matches those with similar misspellings & colloquials. It’s not foolproof but it works very well. Words like those often get labeled as spam or filtered because of the use of uncommon character combinations.

Why would they need to discuss whether or not someone should be able to disable comments on their own content they upload?

This makes me wish Flicker had taken off a bit better after the revamps. The way these Social Networks priority features and bend over backwards for celebrities while treating the average user like a commodity is insulting.

Oh this is going to be fun to watch…

One man’s harassment is another’s freedom of expression. Where the line will be set and how that gets decided will be quite entertaining…

Alternative headline: "Instagram is building the anti-harassment censorship tools Twitter won’t". Just my 2¢

Advertisers should not be able to use this.

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