With the rise of social media came the rise of trolls, obvs. And no matter how many times people scoff, clap back, and put haters in their rightful place, trolls are still going to do it. As T. Swift would say, "Haters gonna hate." (Check out all these celebs who gave the middle finger to body-shamers.)
But just because ignorant humans feel the need to put their unwanted opinions on blast doesn't mean the rest of us want to just sit around and take it on our own posts. That's why more and more platforms are trying to tackle the internet evil. In fact, the new head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, just announced in a blog post that they're implementing new tools to help detect and limit bullying in photo captions and in the photos themselves. The company is using machine learning tech to proactively detect bullying in photos and captions, and then the posts in questions will be sent to their Community Operations team to review.
"This change will help us identify and remove significantly more bullying—and it’s a crucial next step since many people who experience or observe bullying don’t report it," Mosseri wrote in the post. "This new technology has begun to roll out and will continue to in the coming weeks."
This isn't the only effort IG has made to make their platform a better place. It's part of their ongoing initiative to make sure it's a healthy, positive, and safe haven for self-expression—including live mental health reporting, a #KindComments hashtag campaign, and a soon-to-launch Activity Dashboard feature that lets you know how much time you're spending on the app. Just a few months ago, they launched a comment-filtering feature that automatically finds and deletes bullying comments left on posts. The latest update adds this filter to Instagram Live videos as well.
In case you missed the game-changing news about the comment-filtering feature: It possible to filter nasty comments for "threats to a person's well-being or health." Users will also be able to hide "comments containing attacks on a person's appearance or character," meaning former trolls will learn the meaning of #MindYourOwnShape real fast. BTW, the filter has been automatically enabled, but you have the option of turning it off in the settings. (Related: Why Body-Shaming Is Such a Big Problem and What You Can Do to Stop It)
Instagram has become a hater breeding ground, and comments are the place where the battles go down (see: T. Swift and the snake emoji scandal). The app first rolled out a comment filter feature in June 2016 (tested first by T. Swift herself, of course) that hid phrases it deemed offensive and allowed users to create their own personal keyword blacklist. Just tap the gear icon in your profile to find it, then scroll down to "settings" and click "comments." In 2017, the company enhanced the tool by improving the ability of its artificial intelligence to better pick up on offensive and spammy comments (in several languages!) and allowing users to block specific users or groups (ex: people they don't follow) from commenting on their posts.
Each update hasn't just been about shutting down the haters, but encouraging kindness: Last year, IG created a whole pack of positive-vibe stickers to use in your Insta-story, and they're even painting colorful murals in cities across the country to encourage people to support the #KindComments movement. They added a tool to anonymously reach out if someone seems to need help or counseling during a live Instagram broadcast; the person will see a message offering mental health resources such as the option to talk to a helpline or reach out to a friend. (FYI, a similar tool already exists on Twitter and Facebook.)
Thankfully, Instagram isn't the only one making changes. In November 2016, YouTube announced a bunch of new comment features that will help users better moderate negative interactions on their channel.
If you're an avid social media consumer or creator, you might know that the YouTube comment section can be particularly vicious. They already rolled out blacklist words and phrases (where comments with certain words or phrases are held for your review and approval before being published) and allow you to block users who lash out. And their latest beta feature uses an algorithm to detect particularly inappropriate or offensive comments and hold them before you make the final decision whether to approve, hide, or report them.
The sad part, though? You will never be able to stop terrible people from saying terrible things on the internet. It's hard to believe that the same place that gives us goats doing yoga and hilarious workout GIFs is the same place where people comment things like "f*ck me," "spank," and "rape" on a fitness YouTube channel—but that's the way of the internet. In fact, those are actual phrases that powerlifter Meg Gallagher (@megsquats) has needed to blacklist from her own YouTube channel (and those phrases aren't even the worst of it). Luckily, these new tools are helping people like Gallagher who create meaningful content keep the focus on their message.
"I don't block conversation about controversial things like performance-enhancing drugs, disagreements, or someone's opinion on my body, but the second someone writes hate speech, threats, or something too graphic, I feel like the conversation can't really evolve into anything helpful for anyone," she says about filtering the comments on her YouTube channel. About 2 percent of the comments on her videos fit into this seriously disturbing category, which is crazy because this powerlifter is all about spreading self-love and body empowerment. Gallagher says she wants her community to feel welcome and safe on her channel—not intimidated or threatened by negative users, and that these new tools are helping her make sure that happens.
"I allow people to comment on my lifting form, drug accusations, program philosophy, or my body when they come from an inquisitive or conversational place," she says. "If you bring your idea or thought to the table, it deserves to be there. It's okay to disagree with me. I wouldn't allow someone in my gym who was blatantly and verbally racist, sexist, or hateful, so I don't allow them in my comments section either." Preach, girl.