Photo Credit: pexels
In the search for new and innovative ways to clamp down on online bullying, Instagram is turning to machine learning. According to Instagram, machine learning algorithms will now be used to detect bullying, and then relay that information to human moderators. The goal is simple: to detect signs of bullying as early as possible, and preferably before users on Instagram are forced to flag any new posts.
The problem Instagram is trying to solve
Over the past 18 months, Instagram has come under increasing scrutiny for the level of cyber bullying on the platform, and that has made the rollout of these new machine learning tools a priority. For example, in 2017, one online survey ranked Instagram as the worst bullying platform on social media, outpacing even Facebook.
And the problem is exacerbated all the more by the fact that so many teens and young adults use Instagram. As any armchair psychologist will tell you, this is the most “at-risk” population for cyber bullying. (Just imagine posting a killer pic of yourself wearing a hot new dress, and people telling you on Instagram that you’re “fat” or “ugly” – that can really push people over the edge.)
How the new tools work
Essentially, the new tools act as a filter. Using machine learning algorithms capable of detecting sentiment, mood and specific words, Instagram will be able to determine whether any new photo posted to the platform is being used to bully someone else. The algorithms will specifically focus on two key things: attacks on a person’s appearance or character, or threats to a person’s well-being or health. Any photos picked out by the algorithm as posing a potential risk will then be forwarded to human moderators, who will make a final decision. If there is evidence of cyber-bullying, then the photo will be pulled.
Machine learning tools will also be used to act as a “comment filter” anytime someone goes live on Instagram. This is to prevent a real-time event from transforming into a public humiliation at the hands of a few mean-spirited Instagram haters.
The important point to keep in mind here is that the tools, by themselves, cannot eradicate the problem of cyber bullying. Thus, there is nothing that can keep a mean-spirited troll from posting a horrendous comment on your new photo. However, what the tools will do is prevent any attempted bullying from escalating into something much worse.
And, to make Instagram a kinder and gentler place, the social media platform is also rolling out a new feature called the “kindness camera” to help spread positivity. If you use selfie mode, then you can tag a friend and send lots of red happy hearts along with the photo.
Cyber bullying impacts everyone
For older adults (i.e. anyone over the age of 30), it’s easy to dismiss cyber-bullying as just a normal phase of teen life. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Older, educated and well-adjusted adults also have the real potential to transform into trolls on the Internet. Case in point – online trolls have forced a number of top-level celebrities off Instagram entirely, just by barraging their Instagram posts with vile, hateful filth. The latest example is Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran, who is Asian-American. After months of abuse and harassment about her looks and racial identity, she abandoned her 192,000 followers and left Instagram entirely.
Hopefully, the new anti-bullying tools devised by Instagram will help to eliminate these shameful events that help to bring down everyone who uses social media. Too bad it requires machines to shame humans into acting, well, more human.