Ever scrolled though the comments section under an Instagram image of say, a fitness model for example? It can get pretty intense. From today, Instagram is introducing a whole bunch of ways to deal with harassment - recognising comments in particular could be managed a little better.
You'll now have the power to turn off comments for individual posts, remove followers for private accounts and on a more positive note, even "like" comments.
These changes are the latest in a line of improvements for users on Instagram, including a custom keyword filter and anonymous reporting for self-harm - which connects those at risk to professional services who can help.
The comment blocking tool has been in testing with a few accounts that get a lot of comments, and was apparently successful enough to become a permanent feature for everyone. I noticed it myself on a few "celebrity" accounts but couldn't find the feature myself - now I know why!
You can disable comments at any time - before or after posting the image. Once enabled, the comment button just disappears, along with any comments already made. You can turn them back on again, and all comments previously made will also reappear.
Addressing the issue of "free speech", Instagram made the following statement:
Instagram cares deeply about free expression - we are first and foremost a platform for visual communication. But expression takes different forms for different people - some people will feel comfortable using any of the several tools we provide to manage comments, while others may at times feel a need to let their posts stand on their own.
We believe that there is also a threat to free-expression should people simply stop posting their real thoughts. Our goal is to provide an inclusive, accepting, safe space for people.
Instagram is quick to remind us that it is "first and foremost a platform for visual expression" and most people use comments appropriately.
"The vast majority of comments on Instagram are meaningful and valuable - whether to support a friend or engage in respectful debate. But there are times when comments may feel unkind - on Instagram and across the web," Instagram's statement reads, "This is one additional tool for our community, in addition the others we've provided - because you can't take a one-sized fits all approach to well-being".
For those concerned that this change might decrease engagement on posts, Instagram says "our focus is on people and what they might need to feel safe". I suppose time (and analytics) will tell.
Other updates include the ability to "like" comments (finally!) and allowing private accounts to remove followers. Why only private accounts? "We're working to offer people more control over who sees their content across the board," Instagram says, "For those who choose to approve who sees their content, we want to make it easier to control that choice long-term".