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Instagram Rolls Out Custom And Default Keyword Filtering To Combat Harassment

Don’t want to see comments with certain words? Now you don’t have to.

Posted on September 12, 2016, at 11:01 a.m. ET


Today Instagram is rolling out two keyword filters to help limit abuse and harassment on its platform.

The tools, a custom keyword filter and a default keyword filter, allow you to filter out comments with either your own specific words (if you don't want to see comments with "asshole" in them, you add the word "asshole" to the custom filter) or comments with any of hundreds of offensive words Instagram built into its "default" filter.

Keyword filtering is becoming a popular anti-harassment tool. Twitter is working on a similar keyword filtering tool, according to a Bloomberg report. And, a new social network growing fast among conservatives, uses keyword filtering and muting as its only content moderation tools.

Filtering is lauded by some, since it puts editorial decisions in the hands of users, and not the platforms. However, for Instagram, the filters are an addition to its current terms of service — which explicitly prohibit hateful, discriminatory, and other objectionable forms of content — and will not replace them.

The new filters, which are already available to verified users, roll out globally today.

Here's Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom's full blog post announcing the change:

When Mike and I first created Instagram, we wanted it to be a welcoming community where people could share their lives. Images have the ability to inspire and bring out the best in us, whether they are funny, sad or beautiful. Over the past five years, I've watched in wonder as this community has grown to 500 million, with stories from every corner of the world. With this growth, we want to work diligently to maintain what has kept Instagram positive and safe, especially in the comments on your photos and videos.

The beauty of the Instagram community is the diversity of its members. All different types of people — from diverse backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and more — call Instagram home, but sometimes the comments on their posts can be unkind. To empower each individual, we need to promote a culture where everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment. It's not only my personal wish to do this, I believe it's also our responsibility as a company. So, today, we're taking the next step to ensure Instagram remains a positive place to express yourself.

The first feature we’re introducing is a keyword moderation tool that anyone can use. Now, when you tap the gear icon on your profile, you'll find a new Comments tool. This feature lets you list words you consider offensive or inappropriate. Comments with these words will be hidden from your posts. You can choose your own list of words or use default words we've provided. This is in addition to the tools we've already developed such as swiping to delete comments, reporting inappropriate comments and blocking accounts.

We know tools aren't the only solution for this complex problem, but together, we can work towards keeping Instagram a safe place for self-expression. My commitment to you is that we will keep building features that safeguard the community and maintain what makes Instagram a positive and creative place for everyone.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.