The social networking platform celebrated its 10th birthday with the announcement of a set of anti-bullying features. The Electronics spoke to users to find out if they think it’ll help
Social networking platform Instagram celebrated its 10thbirthday with the launch of its anti-bullying measures among other features. But users are unsure if this move will make the space any safer.
What are the measures?
The anti-bullying measures will let users hide comments similar to those previously reported. Also, the website will expand its comment warning system. The hidden comments can be accessed by clicking on ‘View Hidden Comments’.
“We know from research that, while people don’t want to be exposed to negative comments, they want more transparency into the types of comments that are hidden,” read Instagram’s blogpost.
Comment warnings will be expanded to include an additional warning when a user repeatedly tries to post a comment against community guidelines. “These new warnings let people take a moment to step back and reflect on their words and lay out the potential consequences should they proceed,” read the post. The new warnings are currently being tested in select languages.
Instagram has been criticised for its active troll culture and poor control over the spread of fake news and propaganda troubling the mental health of users. While multiple features to curb these are launched regularly…
… Has it really helped users?
“To me, it’s a terrifying platform. Even a year ago, there was a semblance of security, but ever since the Citizenship Amendment Act issue, the platform has been vile. The impact it has goes beyond sharing posts and getting responses. Personal relationships have been ruined, friendships have been lost over opinions shared on it. It makes you doubt everyone, family, friends, classmates,” said a Bangalore-based student activist on condition of anonymity.
In recent years, Instagram has also become a platform for people to voice their beliefs and opinions. In India, after the after the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2019) was passed, it became a space to spread awareness and garner contacts, gather protestors, share videos of protests and activism.
Many online communities were formed to discuss the Act, most of them were led by students. An upsurge was seen in online activism, both for and against the Act, get bitter.
“I call it terrifying because of how easy it is for people to say and do whatever they can on Instagram,” added the activist. “Both Instagram and Facebook insist that they work towards creating safer online environments but these features are useless when someone can keep creating fake profiles to harass you or spread fake news and incite opinions.”
Some feel it also undermines languages other than English. “It’s useless when it comes to recognising comments in Hindi, Kannada and other Indian languages. It’s the only platform with active students, so it’s ideal to use it for education, but it’s also contributing to polarisation in India. What about things like shadow banning, doxxing, and privacy invasions?” questioned the activist.
For many users, the platform offers a chance to be a part of larger communities and share interests. Despite this, many young users complain about Instagram being too overwhelming, and even go on an “Instagram Detox”.
According to a survey conducted by Royal Society for Public Health in 2017, Instagram was ranked the worst social media platform for Mental Health.
“The new features are welcome and I hope they help the online community, but I am skeptical. I hope these regulations can be used in a politically neutral way. Otherwise, they might just be used to curb dissent,” said Raghav BS, a 22-year-old student.
Currently, Instagram has more than a million users, giving users multiple opportunities to showcase themselves. Despite the backlash over cyberbullying and the toll it takes on mental health, many users find the platform and its efforts to curb offensive posts and comments beneficial.
“I think it’s a very advanced move. Instagram can become judgmental and harsh, and regulations like these are necessary. Although, there needs to be a clearer idea of what exactly will be restricted. It’s a feature I look forward to because the platform can get draining otherwise,” said Nyrika Guha Roy, a 23-year-old digital marketer and student.
It has been a year since Instagram launched the warnings feature and has stated that they witnessed a “meaningful decrease in negative interactions”. Their ‘Restrict’ feature has been used by more than 35 million accounts and 3.5 million accounts have used the ‘Delete comments’ feature in a year. Recently, a feature where positive comments can be Pinned was also launched.
The other new features they launched on their 10th birthday include putting up nostalgic icons, Story Maps and IGTV for shopping. Let’s hope their new features can actually make the community a safer and healthier space.