The new tool focuses on DM requests because this is where people usually receive abusive messages, unlike the regular DM inbox.

Person clicking on the Instagram app on a phone,
Atom Content moderation Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 12:52

Facebook-owned Instagram on Wednesday announced a new feature to protect people from seeing abusive direct messages (DMs), as well as the ability to prevent someone you've blocked from contacting you from a new account.

The new feature is designed to help protect users from potentially offensive or abusive DM requests. "Using this feature doesn't share the content of your DM requests with us unless you report them," the company said in a blogpost.

In February, the photo-sharing platform had shared an update on their work to combat abuse and hate speech on Instagram, which included stricter penalties for people who send abusive DMs.

"We understand the impact that abusive content -- whether it's racist, sexist, homophobic or any other kind of abuse -- can have on people. Nobody should have to experience that on Instagram," the company said.

"But combatting abuse is a complex challenge and there isna¿t one single step we can take to eliminate it completely," it added. According to the company, because DMs are private conversations, the company doesn't proactively look for hate speech or bullying the same way it does elsewhere on Instagram.

"That's why we're introducing a new tool which, when turned on, will automatically filter DM requests containing offensive words, phrases and emojis, so you never have to see them," the company said.

The new tool focuses on DM requests because this is where people usually receive abusive messages -- unlike regular DM inbox, where you receive messages from friends.

“It will work in a similar way to the comment filters we already offer, which allow you to hide offensive comments and choose what terms you don’t want people to use in comments under your posts,” Instagram said.

Users can turn both comment and DM request filters on and off in a new dedicated section of your Privacy Settings called Hidden Words.

Instagrams said it would be blocking content from a predefined list, but since it won’t cover all of it, users can also add a custom list of words, phrases and emojis.

“All DM requests that contain these offensive words, phrases, or emojis - whether from your custom list or the predefined list - will be automatically filtered into a separate hidden requests folder. If you choose to open the folder, the message text will be covered so you’re not confronted with offensive language, unless you tap to uncover it. You then have the option to accept the message request, delete it, or report it,” Instagram said. 

In addition to this, it said anytime you already block someone, you will have the option to both block their account and preemptively block new accounts that person may create.

"We also don’t allow recidivism, which means if someone’s account is disabled for breaking our rules, we would remove any new accounts they create whenever we become aware of it," it added.

These features will roll out in the next few weeks.

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