10 Jul 2019

Instagram declare war on bullying to avoid Government regulations

Instagram have declared war on bullying in an attempt to avoid Government regulations

Instagram has introduced two new systems using artificial intelligence. One, which will be known as Comment Warning, will be responding to comments that will prompt the encouragement of rewording if abuse is detected.

It will ask a user things like ‘Are you sure you want to write this particular message?’ or ‘This post might be offensive’ and the other, which will be known as Restrict will put some space between a bully and a victim and use a hide system.

This system is very much like what Twitter has introduced recently and used predominantly for politicians’ Tweets, where comments of a bullying, offensive nature are hidden.

The victim of bullying will have the power to approve, delete or leave the comment pending, before anyone else sees them and restrict the bully. Upon restricting a bully, Instagram immediately disengages the auto complete option and unless bullies know their victim’s username, it will not be able to find it on auto complete any longer.

The Comments warning system has been proven to work, as search engines around five years ago discovered. If somebody was typing anything of a sexual matter or to do with children into their search engine, they would post a warning to the user. What happened was around 65-70% of users decided to abandon their search request.

“This type of approach might actually help combat bullying on Instagram”

says harassment lawyer Yair Cohen

It asks people to stop for a minute and think about what they are posting and make them acknowledge the potential risks of what they are about to post. There are likely to be some challenges with the artificial intelligence detecting abusive comments of course because language changes over time as well as the meanings across different cultures and ages. There will be contextual circumstances where people will be typing something quite innocently as an inside joke or just as banter with a friend and those comments would be totally acceptable but the system may issue a warning to them that what they are about to post is offensive or potentially be blocked.

This is where the problems will lie because there will be people that will be thinking, ‘Do I really want to use a system that perhaps governs my way of expressing myself and in fact, even predict what I am about to say?’. That may put people off.

Back in 2010, Instagram was founded on the basis of freedom and hardly any rules and people could post whatever they wanted and suddenly, they are going to predict what these people are now saying.

Needless to say, if it is successful, it will extend to Facebook as well. It could very well have huge repercussions commercially but I don’t think Instagram or Facebook are doing this because they want to restrict their own platform or necessarily want to protect users (or maybe they do) but the reality is that they have been warned that there are going to be government regulations introduced unless they take a drastic approach to be seen that they are protecting the users of the services.

This is an attempt by Instagram and Facebook to keep the government away from regulating their services. They want to keep their autonomy and their independence and this is something that they feel that they ought to do. This could be the start of a new trend and what social media companies are probably hoping is that users will just get used to the new system.

In 2015, The Internet Law Centre – Cohen Davis obtained an injunction against an unknown Instagram user who harassed and cyberbully our client via the social media website Instagram.

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