Instagram to roll out new features to counter cyberbullying

Bullying. Sadly, it’s a pandemic that is not just restricted to the school grounds of our younger and geekier selves, but something which tends to follow people around regardless of age and even privacy. Cyberbullying has become more widespread than traditional bullying and is often known to be equally traumatic for its victims. A trend which tech companies are trying to increasingly address.

Instagram has new features (via The Verge) on its way that it’s hoping will address cyberbullying by finally allowing people to “shadow ban” others and a new artificial intelligence that is designed to flag potentially offensive comments. Both initiatives are looking to be put into testing soon.

The “shadow ban” will essentially provide a way for a user to restrict another user, without that person realising they are essentially banned. So they will still be able to see your post and comment on them, but their comments will only be visible to themselves meaning you and the rest of the people you actually want to interact with can keep talking in peace while said person wonders why their snarky comments are not getting any responses from you.

Along with this feature, Instagram is also hoping to leverage a new AI to flag potentially offensive comments and ask the commenter if they really want to follow through with posting. They’ll be given the opportunity to undo their comment, and Instagram says that during tests, it encouraged “some” people to reflect on and undo what they wrote. A nice touch, though given the emotional state most bullies are in, it’s unlikely to alter course for most people. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Instagram has already tested multiple bully-focused features, including an offensive comment filter that automatically screens bullying comments that “contain attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health” as well as a similar feature for photos and captions. So this shows a real effort by Facebook to tackle this problem on the platform.

Think before you share your photos via Internet, someone can misuse them

Sometimes, we, especially teenagers, are so much in ‘love’ that they do not even hesitate to share their personal photos and details with our ‘loved ones’ via Internet. That time, they are not aware of the consequences that they are going to face in future.

A recent case might be an eyeopener to all of those teenagers where a man tried to blackmail a teenage girl in Auckland by threatening to post her naked photos images and videos, which were obtained during their online relationship, to the web.

Martin Cocker, executive director at Netsafe, told New Zealand Herald that while cases of teenagers sharing images unwisely was not uncommon, the lengths the perpetrator was going to were very aggressive.

"The man is a very determined character. The majority wouldn't continue to harass and attack any party they can find in the way that he has."

According to the NHerald, the relationship between the girl and the man began through Online gaming. The girl shared her explicit images, and then Skype calls where she undressed in front of a camera.

"I am always concerned they are going to feel like they are the first person who has ever been in this situation and feel isolated. That's not the case. Cases of sexual exploitation were a growing challenge,” he said.

The man stole her information by hacking her family's home computers and then launched a denial-of-service attack on the servers of her high school. Then, he uploaded the explicit images and videos of the girl to pornography websites and on her school's Facebook page with links to the sites.

"He is trying to punish the child or the family. It's a jilted relationship. He wants revenge," the school principal told New Zealand Herald. We just want the whole of New Zealand to realize that this is serious and scary and we need to do something about it."

A police spokesman said that the National Cyber Crime Centre was investigating the unauthorized access and postings on the website and social media pages of the school. The investigation was in its early stages. There were a number of technical matters relating to the inquiry.