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.

Bomb hoax suspect arrested in US

Multiple charges have been laid thanks to the efforts of multiple departments spanning two countries, stemming from 10 bomb threats, including one in a school, late last week.

The man at the centre of recent bomb threats in Taber, Alta, has made his first appearance in a U.S. courtroom. It's not the first time the 36-year-old suspect has been arrested for allegedly making threats.

Justin Bagley of Elkville, Illinois has been charged with 11 counts of felony disorderly conduct in connection to a series of bomb threats made in the Town of Taber that spanned over three days. Class 3/4 disorderly conduct felonies can carry sentences ranging from one to five years in prison in the state of Illinois on each charge.

Timothy Dalton Vaughn is suspected of being part of the Apophis Squad hacker group that was allegedly behind the pranking spree. LA's airport was one target for the Apophis hacker group.

On Friday, police said three schools in Taber received anonymous bomb threats via phone calls from an unknown individual. Investigations found there was no threat at any of the schools, according to police.

In a news release issued on Monday, the Jackson County state’s attorney in Illinois said Bagley has now been charged with “11 separate disorderly conduct counts of making false bomb threats.”

A joint investigation got underway on Saturday when police in Taber contacted the Jackson County Sheriff’s office in Illinois.

The Taber Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service, Jackson County police and United States Department of Homeland Security all participated in the investigation.

One member of Apophis, Briton George Duke-Cohan, is serving a three-year jail sentence for aiding the attacks.

Jackson County Sheriff’s office noted investigators were able to track the phone number used to call the targets in Taber, leading to the arrest of Bagley. All told, an international suspect was able to be arrested within a 72-hour time frame from when the first bomb threat was received on Thursday night at Wal-Mart in Taber.