Introducing new tools to protect our community from abuse

April 21, 2021

We recently shared an update on our work to combat abuse and hate speech on Instagram, which included stricter penalties for people who send abusive Direct Messages (DMs). Now, we’re announcing a new way to protect people from seeing abusive DMs in the first place, as well as the ability to prevent someone you’ve blocked from contacting you from a new account.

A new feature to filter abusive messages

Example of Hidden Words featured on a phone device.

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. But combatting abuse is a complex challenge and there isn’t one single step we can take to eliminate it completely. For example, we know that many in our community, particularly people with larger followings, have faced abuse in their DM request inbox from people they don’t follow.

Because DMs are private conversations, we don’t proactively look for hate speech or bullying the same way we do 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. This tool focuses on DM requests, because this is where people usually receive abusive messages – unlike your 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. You can turn both comment and DM request filters on and off in a new dedicated section of your Privacy Settings called Hidden Words.

We’ve worked with leading anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organizations to develop a predefined list of offensive terms that will be filtered from DM requests when the feature is turned on. We know different words can be hurtful to different people, so you’ll also have the option to create your own custom list of words, phrases or emojis that you don’t want to see in your DM requests. 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.

This new feature is designed to help protect you from potentially offensive or abusive DM requests, while also respecting your privacy. All message filtering will take place on your own device, which means this feature won’t send any message content back to our servers. Using this feature doesn’t share the content of your DM requests with us, unless you report them.

We’ll start rolling out this feature in several countries in the coming weeks and will look to expand to more countries over the next few months.

A new way to protect you from unwanted contact

Example of blocking multiple accounts, featured on a phone device.

We’re also making it harder for someone who you’ve already blocked from contacting you again through a new account. With this feature, whenever you decide to block someone on Instagram, you’ll have the option to both block their account and preemptively block new accounts that person may create. This will be available globally in the next few weeks.

This is in addition to our harassment policies, which already prohibit people from repeatedly contacting someone who doesn’t want to hear from them. 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.

Continuing our work to combat offensive comments

As well as using our proactive detection technology to help catch violating comments, we offer a number of tools to help you control abuse in your comments. If you have a public account, you have the option to only allow comments from people you follow and/or are following you.

We’re also starting to hide common misspellings of offensive words from your manual comment filter list, so that even if a word you don’t want to see is accidentally or deliberately spelled wrong, you still won’t see it in your comments.

We know there’s still more we can do, and we’re committed to continuing our fight against bullying and online abuse. We’ll keep working in partnership with experts, industry organizations, teens, creators, and public figures to understand their experience on Instagram and how we can evolve our policies and products to protect them from online abuse.