Instagram’s new tool will let you choose the words and phrases you want to restrict in your DM requests

Instagram’s new tool will let you choose the words and phrases you want to restrict in your DM requests
TOI
  • Instagram is rolling out two new tools to combat abuse, hate speech and harassment.
  • One of the tools will allow you to block DM requests with the words you find offensive.
  • The new features will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Instagram shared an update on its work towards combating abuse, hate speech and bullying on its platform in February. On the same lines, the social media platform today announced two new features to protect its users from seeing abusive direct messages (DMs) and permanently block users from reaching you using fresh accounts.

A much-needed tool to fight abusive messages is here

Instagram, or any other social media platform for that matter, isn't safe from abuse and hatred. Abusive content flowing around in plain sight is not a secret on social media. Instagram believes "nobody should have to experience that" on its platform. But the issue isn't that easy to combat as there are many challenges. For example, tracking publicly visible comments is achievable, but Instagram can't track the contents of a DM, which is the most common medium of abuse and hate speech.

Instagram’s new tool will let you choose the words and phrases you want to restrict in your DM requests
How to enable the new feature in settings.Instagram

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To fight this, the Facebook-owned media sharing platform has introduced a new tool that will automatically filter DM requests containing offensive words, phrases and emojis. The tool needs to be enabled from settings and it focuses on DM requests, which are sent from users not followed by you, unlike the regular DM inbox where you receive messages from your friends.

The tool will work just how the comment filter works -- which lets you hide offensive comments and block unwanted words that you don't want people to use. The feature can be turned on in the 'Hidden Words' setting under the 'Privacy Settings' option. In addition to letting users add custom words/phrases/emojis, Instagram says it has worked with some anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organisations to set a predefined list of offensive terms to filter out when the feature is turned on. All the filtered messages based on the custom and predefined list will be moved to a separate folder called ‘hidden requests.’ If you choose to go to the folder for some reason, the contents of the messages will be blurred unless you tap to uncover it by will.

This feature will be rolled out in the coming weeks, but only in select regions for now. Other regions will get this feature in the coming months.

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Will Instagram ask for access to your messages to make this feature work?

The abuse detection feature is a solid idea to fight abuse, but how is Instagram going to detect the words in my personal messages? Instagram promises that all message filtering will take place on your device, which means this feature won’t send any message content to its servers. "Using this feature doesn't share the content of your DM requests with us unless you report them," Instagram states in its blog post.

A smarter way to block unwanted contacts is also making its way to Instagram
Instagram’s new tool will let you choose the words and phrases you want to restrict in your DM requests
New Instagram feature that automatically restricts new accounts that are already blocked.Instagram

For instances such as when you block an account and the person makes a new account to pester you, Instagram has finally brought a solution. With the new feature, if you block someone you'll have the option to preemptively block any other account made by that person. While it's unclear how Instagram is going to detect that, I guess it'll be done using the person's registration details like the email address and phone number. This feature will be available globally in the next few weeks.

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In addition to the existing abuse-control tools on its platform, Instagram says it's proactively working towards hiding common misspellings of offensive words from your manual comment filter list. Meaning, if someone writes a word you don’t want to see is accidentally or deliberately spelt wrong, it still won't be visible.

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