The Facebook-owned photo and video sharing app Instagram has revealed a new tool that will allow users to automatically filter out direct message (DM) requests that include offensive words, phrases, or emojis.
Celebrities and public figures who receive a large number of unwanted, negative DMs are the target audience for the tool.
The update builds on Instagram’s efforts to fight hate speech. The company said that users who sent several harassing messages would have their accounts disabled. The company extended its offensive comments filter in 2018 to automatically block comments that attack a person’s appearance or character.
In a new section of the app called “hidden words,” you can turn on or off the message requests filter. Offensive messages would be moved to a different folder if it is turned on.
The contents of DMs in this folder are hidden, allowing users to access messages without having to read them. When a user clicks into a message, they have the option of reading, deleting, or reporting it.
The company said that it worked with “leading anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organizations” to create a catalog of offensive words. Users may also build their list of items they don’t want to see.
In the coming weeks, Instagram would carry out the new feature to “several countries,” but it did not specify which countries. In the next few months, the company intends to expand to more countries.
Instagram also announced that it would be rolling out a tool that will enable users to preemptively block harassers from new accounts. When a user blocks anyone in the app, they’ll have the option of blocking any new accounts that person creates.
The company wouldn’t say how it does it, only saying that it uses a “variety of signals” to identify new accounts from the same users. In the coming weeks, the feature will be rolled out globally.