Instagram’s New Anti-Harassment Features Are Great, But Only If You’re Famous
The worst thing about social media — aside from never getting a good selfie angle or comparing your droll life to the glam lives of others — is harassment. Blocking crazy ex-boyfriends or nasty troll comments can start to feel like you’re playing a game of whack-a-mole, which is why Instagram’s new anti-harassment features are actually pretty fucking awesome. Except only verified (i.e. famous) users will get to use them for the time being.
Verified users will be able to block out certain words or emoji from their comment sections and also be able to disable comments altogether on a case by case basis, though Instagram is still not sure that blocking comments will be rolled out to everyone. Let’s hope they make it so that whether you’re Taylor Swift being barraged with snake emoji or you just don’t want to see your Aunt Carol’s “cute!” every time you post from the back of an Uber, everyone can be the boss of their own thread.
This change is very good because harassment is always a big deal but has been more in the spotlight recently, especially with Leslie Jones’ short hiatus from Twitter after being bombarded by nasty, racist trolls for days. She did eventually come back to the social network after getting a little help from CEO Jack Dorsey.
Celebs and organizations do get the most shit, so it makes sense to roll out the new features where users can really test out the controls before they hit the masses. Being able to block comments on a post by post basis is so much better than randomly blocking or deleting bad shit from your Instagram thread. Chrissy Teigen has famously said that she would rather quit Twitter altogether then have to spend hours glued to her fucking phone blocking every user that has something terrible to say. It’s exhausting. And scary when there are death threats involved.
For those of us not in the public sphere, the anti-harassment tools might seem pretty advanced, but there are many times that blocking a user, especially one that you know, can escalate into something worse or just more annoying. Being able to take away their ability to comment, which can give bullies or assholes the illusion that they have access to your life, might be safer in the long run. Maybe.
It’s also — sorry, Twitter — a good move for the company that they are on top of this. There is little to no recourse on Twitter when it comes to filtering the shit people spew at you aside from blocking and straight up ignoring your notifications. Of course, Instagram’s new features just wouldn’t work on Twitter, given the nature of the platform. Turning off all replies, for example, defeats the purpose of Twitter. Blocking certain words? Doesn’t make any sense either.
Gizmodo says Instagram can still work without a comment section if a user decides to get to rid of it, but that “Twitter is the comment section.” So to curtail harassment and violent speech, Twitter has to double down on what can and cannot be said on the network. They then run the risk of “censorship,” which many users complained about after Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos for harassing Leslie Jones. Of course, banning users is not censorship — censorship is the government shutting you up. A private company can make you comply with their rules. And trolls will always find a way to be assholes, whether the rules get tougher about speech or not.
So maybe users just have to decide whether they are up for the crap that goes on over at Twitter. But Instagram should always be a nice happy place to find videos of Lindsay Lohan losing her shit. As long as you’re nice about them.