A photo and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook, Instagram has officially unveiled a new way to fight cyberbullying with a feature the social media giant is calling “Restrict”, to root out bullying on its platform. The new tool will effectively allows users to shadow-ban people who are bullying them.
The new feature would make comments from a bully invisible to everyone but themselves, in essence leaving them shouting into a void without realizing that their comments are not being seen by others.
The term “shadow ban” refers to a practice of softly silencing posters that many heavy users of the platform accuse Instagram of engaging in. In essence, a person is removed from the community without being notified. Instagram creators believe that the app does this for perceived infractions against the Terms of Service that don’t necessarily rise to the level of an outright ban, pointing to notable declines in their reach after controversial posts. Instagram denies doing this.
The new feature is much more deliberate, allowing users to corral their bullies away from the rest of their followers. In a blog post explaining the new tool, Instagram said they settled on the one-party-privy exile because of users’ fear that outright blocking their bullies might result in escalation.
“We’ve heard from young people in our community that they’re reluctant to block, unfollow, or report their bully because it could escalate the situation, especially if they interact with their bully in real life,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri said. Some of these actions also make it difficult for a target to keep track of their bully’s behavior.”
In addition, Instagram has unveiled an automated feature that would encourage people to stop and think before posting hurtful comments. Comments that are flagged by the app while the user is posting them will cause a pop-up that encourages them to “keep Instagram a supportive place.”
Instagram says that tests of this feature showed that moment of self-reflection to be effective. “From early tests of this feature, we have found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect,” Mosseri said.