Instagram's New Settings Offer You Far More Control Over Your Comment Section

Update: September 26, 2017: Instagram is taking additional steps towards limiting hate speech and promoting online safety with the introduction of multiple new tools.
Beginning today, anyone whose account is set to public will be able to specify who can comment on their posts. You can keep comments open to "everyone" or limit them to select groups of people. You can also block specific accounts from commenting on your posts (this function applies to those users with private accounts, too). Head to your Settings > Comments to make adjustments.
Instagram is also increasing its mental health resources. "If you see someone going through a difficult time or in need of support during a live broadcast, you can report it anonymously," Instagram Co-Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom wrote in a post about the app's new tools.
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That person will see a message offering ways for them to seek help or get in touch with a friend.
This feature is already available for the Instagram posts you see in your feed, but it's especially important to have it a real-time service like Live, since the videos can easily disappear after a broadcast is finished.

Photo by @runnerkimhall Today, we’re announcing new tools and programs to keep Instagram a safe and positive place for self-expression. Since the beginning, we’ve tried to make Instagram a welcoming place for everyone. Our community has grown to 800 million, with 500 million using it every day. It’s more important than ever to strengthen our commitment to safety and kindness. Over time, we’ve launched a number of tools to help you manage the comments experience, and today we’re introducing more. Starting today, if your account is public, you’ll see a new way to choose who can comment on your posts — from everyone to just groups of people, like people you follow or your followers. Also, whether your account is public or private, you’ll be able to block other accounts from commenting on your posts. In June, we launched a filter to block certain offensive comments in English, today we are expanding this filter to Arabic, French, German and Portuguese. The filter will improve over time, enabling the community’s experience of sharing to improve as well. We’re continuing to provide mental health resources to you when you need them most. If you see someone going through a difficult time or in need of support during a live broadcast, you can report it anonymously. The person will see a message offering help with options to talk to a helpline, reach out to a friend or get other tips and support. We have teams working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, around the world to respond. We feel as strongly about creating a safe and welcoming environment today as we did when our community was just getting started. To learn more about these tools and others, visit Instagram-Together.com. Thank you for being on this journey with us, and for taking care of each other. Kevin Systrom Co-Founder & CEO

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This article was originally published on June 29, 2017.
Hate speech is a consistent problem across social media platforms, from Twitter to Instagram. In the past, moderators worked tirelessly behind the scenes to look at reported posts, and take the action deemed appropriate by their company guidelines. But machine learning is increasingly being used as a more scaleable way to handle such posts.
Photo: Courtesy of Instagram.
Such is the case at Instagram: Today, the app announced a new function that will automatically block offensive comments on posts and videos when turned on. Instagram started offering a comment filter last September, but compared to that, the feature released today is far more advanced.
"We believe that using machine learning to build tools to safeguard self-expression is an important step in fostering more inclusive, kinder communities," Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post about the new feature.
The "Hide Offensive Comments" filter will now be on by default. You'll still be able to delete and report other comments, especially ones you feel the filter ought to have caught. The hope is that this feature will drastically decrease hate speech for those who want it. If you want to disable the filter, off you can always go to your settings, tap Comments, and toggle it off "Hide Offensive Comments." For now, the comment filter will only be available in English, although Instagram said it will expand the function in coming months.
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Another filter is working to hide the spam messages that seem to show up far too often, especially in the comment sections of larger accounts belonging to celebs or brands. The filter is well-versed in multiple languages, and will be able to catch spam written in Spanish, Portuguese, English, Arabic, French, German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese, Systrom wrote in the blog post.
Both Instagram and Twitter have tools that allow you to hide posts with certain keywords, hashtags, and phrases from your feed, but Instagram's new filters require less effort on the user's end.
“Comments are a powerful space on Instagram — they're your space," Nicky Jackson Colaco, Instagram's director of public policy, wrote in an email to Refinery29. "We believe we can filter out many of the day-to-day toxic comments that people tell us can make them less likely to share, or cause them stress.”
Wired also reports that the person who posted the blocked comment will still see their comment below the post, and won't know that it's invisible to everyone else.
Though there is still much work to be done, these filters, which leverage more advanced AI technology, are a positive step forward.
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