At least one social network is taking notice of the major harassment problem that faces all public spaces in which angry young men with computers are allowed a measure of anonymity. Instagram will step more fully to the plate of ending online harassment, The Washington Post reports. Instagram will allow users to ban select phrases or emoji from their comments or turn off comments altogether if they so desire. Instagram already has certain filters in place, but this will allow users a greater degree of determining their experience. Apparently, it has already been rolled out to some high-profile users and will slowly become available to more users, pending a wide release. Is this how Taylor Swift was able to eliminate negative comments so swiftly? “Our goal is to make Instagram a friendly, fun and, most importantly, safe place for self-expression," Nicky Jackson Colaco, Instagram public policy chief, told The Post in a statement. "We have slowly begun to offer accounts with high volume comment threads the option to moderate their comment experience. As we learn, we look forward to improving the comment experience for our broader community.”
The policy seems like an unalloyed good. Unlike Twitter, which features a more delicate balancing act, Instagram has been more tightly controlling of its user experience. In some cases, like the Free The Nipple movement, that has been occasion for criticism. But this doesn’t seem like one of those instances. We’re all for free expression and we’re against harassment. Free expression doesn’t also mean people have to listen, after all. Correction: This post originally indicated that Instagram worked with Taylor Swift to erase harassing comments to her account. Instagram has not publicly acknowledged those actions.