Instagram boss Adam Mosseri confirmed that the company is testing a new feature called Limits that will allow users to temporarily suspend their accounts if they are attacked by a barrage of harassment. The announcement of the new feature came in a video today in which Mosseri condemned the recent racism that took place on Instagram’s platform after the Euro 2020 final, noting that the company was working on improvements to both internal and customer-facing tools to fix this problem.
The company had previously commented and condemned the racist abuse in which English footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were brutally harassed by angry fans after the team’s defeat earlier this month. Mosseri stated at the time that the company was using technology to try to prioritize user reports and incorrectly flagging some reports as harmless comments instead of referring them to human moderators. One of the possible complications was that many of the harassing comments used emojis, which Instagram’s systems may find difficult to understand, as emojis can have different meanings in different contexts.
Today Mosseri again acknowledged Instagram’s mistake and found that the problem has now been resolved. He said Instagram was proactively wiping the footballers’ comments but wasn’t expecting the wave of user reports.
He also pointed out that Instagram receives millions of user reports every day and even 1% of them are false, resulting in tens of thousands of problematic posts mistakenly left on the platform.
Mosseri then mentioned several user-centric tools that could help people deal more directly with harassment on their own accounts to prevent abuse. This includes Instagram’s tools like block and restrict. The latter is a tool that allows users to approve a user’s comments before anyone else sees them or read someone’s messages without sending read receipts. Another recently added tool called Hidden Words allows users to block certain keywords in both comments and direct messages.
He added that the Limits feature could have helped footballers as it offered simple settings to limit unwanted comments and reactions.
The feature was spotted earlier this month by social media advisor Matt Navarra, who shared screenshots of how it works, but Instagram hadn’t officially announced it yet.
In the shared images, users with the feature will find a new section called Limits in Instagram’s privacy controls that explains that they can temporarily restrict comments and messages from certain groups of followers.
Users can then toggle groups on or off to restrict them, including recent followers and accounts that don’t follow you as these accounts are spam or just created to harass you. As is so often the case, a flood of incoming abuse does not come from long-time followers of an account, but from newcomers who have visited the account to harass them.
The feature also allows users to set a duration for the limits in terms of a number of days or even weeks.
An Instagram spokesperson also confirmed the feature worked, as the pictures show, noting that it would be a tool that would help people deal with “intense cases of harassment or abuse”.
“Maybe you’re in high school and just broke up or you just switched schools. Or maybe you are a professional footballer and you are often harassed, ”says Mosseri, explaining how limits can be useful in different situations. “Whatever it is, we know that sometimes people are in transitory moments of real pain risk, and we want to give them tools to protect themselves in those situations,” he added.
Instagram declined to say when the feature would be publicly available, but noted that it will be tested on mobile devices in select countries for the time being.