The battle is on: social media vs online abuse

The battle is on: social media vs online abuse

Social media companies have long faced criticism for not doing enough to stop the spread of hate on their platforms. A notable incident was the racist abuse England men’s football team experienced after the Euro 2020 tournament, with Instagram claiming it had deleted more than 2,000 abusive comments. The social media accounts of reality television stars, such as ‘Love Island’ contestants, have also urged users to ‘be kind’ following abuse from trolls.


But what are social media giants doing to combat this?

Instagram has launched new tools to restrict abusive messages. This includes a new feature called ‘Limits’, which automatically hides comments and messages from new followers and people not following an account, if a user chooses to enable it.  The idea behind it is to target the sudden spike of negative attention some users can receive, especially creators and public figures. The company specifically referenced the Euro 2020 event as a catalyst for introducing this new feature.

Instagram is also rolling out its ‘Hidden Words’ system, and is expanding its blocklist of keywords, hashtags and emojis which users worldwide can customise to filter out.

It is clear social media platforms are trying to stop these waves of abuse by giving users more power and control over who can interact with their content, but more work needs to be done.

So why has technology not been used to address this issue sooner?

Ultimately, emojis, anonymity, and spamming can make it challenging to track and stop abusive messages on social media channels. Also, these platforms are not regulated in the same way as traditional media outlets, such as the BBC, as they do not fall into the category of publishers or broadcasters.

In contrast, there are dedicated social media platforms, such as ‘Tattle Life’, which are built on gossiping about celebrities and influencers. How we choose to consume media is our choice, but social media giants need to take more responsibility for creating a safe environment for users.

It is getting harder for social media platforms to defend the torrent of abuse some users are experiencing on their apps, especially with society’s growing awareness of mental health. With 3.96 billion people currently using social media worldwide, online abuse needs to be taken more seriously. More than 500,000 people have even called for IDs to be a requirement when creating a social media account, as this would take anonymity away from trolls.

While we would all acknowledge social media companies should have acted a long time ago to resolve this issue, it is encouraging to see apps like Instagram have now taken positive action.

As technology continues to progress in all other areas of society, I am looking forward to seeing how this moves into the world of social media to make it a happier, safer, and more enjoyable space for us all.

Alice Alexander

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