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Instagram is letting users filter words out of post comments

Engadget Engadget 29/07/2016 David Lumb
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As Twitter and Facebook have taken online harassment more seriously in 2016, though most of their methods to curb it involve user reporting. Instead, Instagram is debuting user-operated word filters, letting them control the tone of discussion below each image — or turn off comments in a post entirely. But is it enough to just let folks block triggering phrases?

The feature is already being tested on "high-profile" celebrity accounts, which conceivably field a large volume of comments from other users. It will officially roll out to those first and then to the masses in the next few weeks, according toThe Washington Post.

It's a tough balance to keep online communities safe but not overly restrict free speech: Come down too hard on one angle and you'll enrage proponents of the other. But social networks' previous hands-off strategy letting the community sort itself out has brought accusations of complicity when they don't prevent harassment and abuse. Letting users block certain offensive or inflammatory words will hopefully prevent some escalation or term-specific targeting.

Of course, trolls and haters shielded with the anonymity of the internet will probably find a way around the block in the same way they have since AOL chatrooms got parental filters: misspellings, euphemisms, and coded language. The exact bigoted or derogatory terms might be banned, but determined thugs will always find a way to get their words heard.

On the other side of the coin, the very prospect of eliminating language is contrary to the free spirit of the internet. And if they're adding the option to block comments on a per-post basis, why not give users the ability to turn them off for every one by default? Meanwhile, we're still waiting for a feature Facebook has had for years: allowing your posts to be visible or accessible by certain friends — or invisible to known trolls.

The Washington Post

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