Social media giant, Instagram, has vowed to do more to “support and protect” the most vulnerable people who use the app.
Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has shared exactly what his team is changing about their approach. In a blog post, posted on Thursday February 7, he revealed four key areas where change will be seen imminently.
“At Instagram, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people in our community,” he said.
“Over the past month we have seen that we are not where we need to be on self-harm and suicide, and that we need to do more to keep the most vulnerable people who use Instagram safe.
“That’s why today, following a comprehensive review with global experts and academics on youth, mental health and suicide prevention, we’re announcing further changes to our approach on self-harm content.”
What exactly is Instagram changing about its approach?
The main thing that Instagram is cracking down on right away is graphic images of self-harm, such as cutting. It will not allow any graphic images, even if they would previously have been allowed as admission. Mosseri added: “We have never allowed posts that promote or encourage suicide or self-harm, and will continue to remove it where reported.”
— Alex Holmes (@abcholmes) February 7, 2019
Non-graphic, self-harm related content – like healed scars – will also not be shown in search, hashtags and the explore tab. “We are not removing this type of content from Instagram entirely,” added Mosseri. “As we don’t want to stigmatise or isolate people who may be in distress and posting self-harm related content as a cry for help.”
Instagram is also focused on getting more resources to people posting and searching for self-harm related content. It will direct them to organisations that can help, supporting people in their time of need.
Meanwhile, Instagram is continuing to speak with experts to find out what more it can do. This could include making sure images are not immediately visible. Instagram could do this by blurring any non-graphic, self-harm related content with a sensitivity screen.
How long will it take Instagram to get on top of this issue?
Instagram itself admits that it will take time, but acknowledges the team have “a responsibility to get this right”.
The picture-sharing platform’s aim is to have no graphic self-harm or suicide related content on Instagram. Moreover, it hopes to “significantly reduce”, with the goal of removing, all suicide and self-harm imagery from hashtags, search and the explore tab. That’s as well as recommended content.
Though, while doing this, Instagram still wants to ensure it supports users and connect them to communities of support. “We need to create a safe and supportive community for everyone,” added Mosseri. “But this is not as simple as just switching off a button.
“We will not be able to remove these images immediately and we must make sure that people posting self-harm related content do not lose their ability to express themselves and connect with help in their time of need. We will get better and we are committed to finding and removing this content at scale.”
Instagram acknowledge there is more that it can do to support their most vulnerable users. So, it has vowed to continue working with experts and the wider industry to discover new ways it can help. Further information about its consultation with experts can be found here.
Overall, Instagram understand that suicide and self-harm are complex issues. It is relying on the input of experts in these fields to “help and shape” their approach.
“Up until now, we’ve focused most of our approach on trying to help the individual who is sharing their experiences around self-harm,” read the blog post.
“We have allowed content that shows contemplation or admission of self-harm because experts have told us it can help people get the support they need.
“But we need to do more to consider the effect of these images on other people who might see them. This is a difficult but important balance to get right.”