The internet only grows and grows as time goes by, we use it to stream movies, order food and clothes, talk to friends and relatives across the globe and we also use it for social media. It’s rare to find someone who isn’t on some form of social media and with such a huge number of people on social sharing sites, it opens up the opportunity for people with less than good intentions. This is something Instagram is looking to combat with their new anti-bullying and kindness features.

One in three internet users are children, and three-quarters of 12 to 15 year old have some kind of social media account, according to NSPCC. A study that was taken by OFCOM in 2017 also suggests 1 in 8 young adults have been bullied online; with a strong likelihood of it actually being far higher. So, this new anti-bullying measure from Instagram should be hugely beneficial to young people online.

person holding iphone displaying instagram content

The tech will be AI-based and will use new machine learning technology to proactively detect bullying in photos and captions. The flagged posts will then be sent to Instagram's Community Operations team to be looked over by human eyes before being determined if it is problematic. This is the first announcement made by Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, in his newly appointed role and despite recognising we all have a long way to go, he is making moves to combat ‘complex’ online bullying.

“This change will help us identify and remove significantly more bullying — and it’s a crucial next step since many people who experience or observe bullying don’t report it. It will also help us protect our youngest community members since teens experience higher rates of bullying online than others.”

- Instagram speaking on the new anti-bullying AI

From what we can see so far, the AI technology will be able to identify personal attacks, negative comments on appearance or character and threats to someone's well-being or health. As an example, negatively ranking appearance of two women in a side-by-side, split screen image would qualify and be reported to Instagram. It isn’t yet known fully what else the AI will be able to detect, however, the technology is currently running on the app in order to improve online interactions.

Instagram has also recruited anti-bullying activist Maddie Ziegler, (who gained her fame from appearing on ‘Dance Moms’ and in SIA’s music videos) and they have collaborated to create a ‘Kindness Filter’. Anyone who follows Ziegler on the app will automatically have the filter. In selfie mode, hearts will appear on the screen. In the rear mode, kind comments in different languages will appear. You are also able to tag friends, too.

Maddie Ziegler using the kindness filter

These anti-bullying measures are an improvement on the apps efforts last year, in which Instagram began to block offensive comments and filter out spam in comments. The app now also has the ability to filter out bullying comments, that aim to harass or upset users, both on posts and live videos.

Overall, this is a great move for making the internet, and by extension social media, a safer place for young and older people alike. However, if you want to be sure you, or a young person you know, isn’t a target for online bullying, keep in mind users can also turn off comments on individual Instagram posts and block posts with certain keywords. Safe social media surfing!