Hey Bullies, Instagram’s Niceness Cops Are Comin’ For You

By Workshop Team On October 11, 2018

The newly-minted head of Instagram, who swooped in to replace co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger after their surprise exit last month, now holds the keys to the photo-sharing platform’s kingdom of one billion users. But it’s not just the users Mosseri has to worry about. He’s now in charge of Facebook’s most valuable asset, the chunk of the company Mark Zuckerberg still brags about on earnings reports, the piece of the Facebook ecosystem that investors look to with relief.

So today, just a few weeks into his new job, Mosseri is doubling down on what Instagram does best: He’s introducing a new set of tools designed to clean up toxic content on Instagram, extending a years-long effort to make Instagram the nicest place on the web.

Chief among the new tools is an algorithm to filter out offensive content in photos and captions. Instagram already uses a machine-learning algorithm to find and hide comments that violate its Community Guidelines; that feature makes toxic or divisive comments disappear before they ever show up under a photo. Now, Instagram will use a similar tool to find instances of “bullying” in photos on the platform. Once identified by Instagram’s algorithm, the offending photos will be sent to Community Operations team for human-review and possible removal.

 Instagram says the algorithm is trained to flag photos and captions that include “attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health.” That follows a policy from several months ago, when Instagram expanded its offensive comment filter to automatically remove comments with attacks or threats to individual users. Starting today, Instagram will also extend that feature to live videos, automatically hiding comments that violate the Community Guidelines.

Be Nice

Like many social platforms, Instagram is caught between its explosive growth and the desire to maintain decorum. It wants Instagram to be a place for creativity and free expression, but also a place where people feel safe and welcome. Earlier this year, the company launched a wellbeing initiative to focus on achieving the latter, leveraging machine learning tools to do at scale what Instagram’s Community Operations team does by hand. Today’s announcements follow that trend, extending the wellbeing tools to more parts of the platform.

Of course, all of this was underway long before Mosseri took the reigns of the company. But it’s telling that his first act as the head of Instagram focuses on making Instagram even nicer. Along with the filters, he’s also introducing a new “Kindness Camera Effect,” which fills the screen with hearts in selfie-mode and invites you to tag a friend you support. “While stopping bullies is important, we must also do more to celebrate and inspire kindness on Instagram,” Mosseri wrote in a blog post announcing the new features.

Cheesy, sure. But Instagram’s gotten this far by branding itself as the social media app that’s still fun to use, the one without all the toxicity and trolling. If the new anti-bullying features do their job, you won’t even notice them. You’ll just keep scrolling, wondering why the rest of social media can’t be this nice.