Bullies Be Gone

Bullies Be Gone


Instagram, a very popular social media platform, is meant to be used to post photos and videos conveniently from one’s smartphone. Unfortunately, its intended use has been corrupted by hateful, intimidating, and even threatening messages inflicted by cyberbullies. To combat the misuse, Instagram revealed they are now using a new technology to detect and eliminate cyber bullying in photos posted on the app. The new head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, said in a press release,

“While the majority of photos shared on Instagram are positive and bring people joy, occasionally a photo is shared that is unkind or unwelcome. We are now using machine learning technology to proactively detect bullying in photos and their captions and send them to our Community Operations team to review”.

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, has also recently introduced anti-bullying tools that give its user’s the option to remove comments from their feed in bulk and report comments on behalf of the victim. Efforts to eliminate bullying from these social networks comes from the increased pressure on social media platforms to better manage negative content on their apps. With millions of users, Facebook and Instagram opted to hire thousands of employees for this one task.

Since only so much can be done manually, tech companies started developing specialized programming to manage content on its own. It is especially difficult to moderate photos, which is why Instagram’s announcement is somewhat of a break-through. Fiona Brown, Head of Communications at Instagram, explained the new artificial intelligence and how it contextualizes the image itself in order to detect harassment:

“It takes several signals into account from the photo itself and, if there’s a caption, from the caption too. An example of a bullying tactic that the photo technology detects is comparing, ranking, and rating images and captions, such as split-screen images where a person is compared to another person in a negative way”.

Therefore, Instagram has become the first social network to shift responsibility from its users to its to its administrators.

Instagram’s “new technology” is called DeepText– a learning-based text understanding engine that can understand with near-human accuracy the textual content of several thousand posts per second. The program uses a set of algorithms modeled after the human brain’s neuron system. It is able to understand nuanced use of human language and the meaning of words in a specific context. The company’s update also includes a bullying comment filter called the Kindness Camera Effect that is able to sift through comments on live videos and counteract negativity in real time. The Effect encourages users to celebrate kindness and positivity through comments and filter overlays. Mosseri stated that not only is Instagram focused on eliminating negativity and cyberbullying, but celebrates and inspires kindness.

Cyberbullying has proven to be an extremely big issue as people, and especially children, are more likely to engage in negative behavior due to its deindividuated approach. Technology has yet to catch up with the masses of bullies that exist on each and every social media platform so any and all technological improvements are a step in the right direction. Instagram’s announcement is particularly exciting because not only does their new softwareactively detect negative commentary but it promotes positive behavior which is important especially for younger generations. Often times, young people overlook the importance of simply being kind to one another. The next technological development should be one that holds cyberbullies accountable for their actions. For example, depending on the severity of the comment or action taken, said user’s account should be temporarily deactivated. With a more serious consequence than their comment or post simply being deleted, more and more bullies will refrain from inflicting anger and hate on innocent victims.  

2 thoughts on “Bullies Be Gone

  1. Hi Brooke,
    I find this method of trying to reducing the amount of cyberbullying on social media platforms to be extremely interesting and necessary. As technology becomes more universal to everyone, that means that the younger generations are obtaining access to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Therefore, I believe it is a duty of those apps to find and implement a system/method to understand cyberbullying is being executed – which is why it is truly spectacular that Instagram is using their technology platform to try and stop it.
    I also agree that on some level it is the responsibility of the administration to stop bullying – even though on some level it should be the responsibility of its users as well. I know it is impossible to get everyone who uses the app on board to use it in a friendly and kind way, that is why it is essential that there is another source of filtering negative content that is being posted. I am curious to see what the punishment will be to those that are using the app to harass/post negative content. Will it just be deleting their comments/posts, giving them warnings, or will they eventually be kicked off of Instagram for good? Though the answers to these questions may not be 100% certain, I think it is admirable that a company is going out of their way to make their platform be used for good and filter out those that not using it positively.
    My only concern is how well the technology can understand human communication when it comes to slang words and abbreviated language in different context. Do these machines really have the capability to understand human words/communications? And if so, in a way that is measurable to humans?


  2. I am glad to hear that these social media giants are beginning to take steps forward to prevent bullying. In the world of bullying today, it has become so much easier to sit behind a screen and send hateful words and messages to others. Facebook and Instagram have become vehicles for bullies to drive in. It is interesting how they have begun to take the responsibility out of the individuals themselves, and put the onus on the administrators to stop bullying. Instagram’s method seems promising. To understand human textual content is a feat in itself. However, I think there needs to be more done at the grassroots level to stop it from getting to this point. There needs to be greater attention given to bullying and the dangers of it to children in schools. There should be programs being implemented to teach children about all the different forms of bullying. While seeing social media moguls use their platform to help this issue, I think it is something that will need to be fixed by the bottom up, rather from the top down.


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