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(Pocket-lint) - Instagram has introduced features to help protect creators from unnecessary abuse online. These features include "Limits" and "Hidden Words" and are crafted to help negate issues that Instagram users might have with people either sending nasty DMs or leaving abusive comments posts. 

The move was announced in a blog post by the company and came about as a result of a barrage of racist abuse directed at UK footballers. Now with these improvements, it should be easier for users to avoid seeing this sort of negativity. 

We're here to explain how the features work. 

Instagram Limits - to prevent unwanted DMs

Instagram Limits is designed to protect users from abusive messages sent to them directly. Instagram spoke about the logic of how this feature came about:

"Our research shows that a lot of negativity towards public figures comes from people who don’t actually follow them, or who have only recently followed them, and who simply pile on in the moment..."

So Limits is designed to automatically hide comments and direct message requests from other users who don't follow you or have only just recently started to do so. 

InstagramHow to use Instagram Limits feature to reduce racist, homophobic and sexist comments photo 1

To activate Limits, simply visit your privacy settings:

  1. Click on your profile
  2. Click on the burger menu on the top right
  3. Click settings
  4. Click Privacy 
  5. Then click on Limits

From there you can click to select who you want to limit. You can choose to limit either accounts that aren't following you or just people who have only recently followed. You can also select how long the limit lasts for if the problem is only likely to be short term. 

InstagramHow to use Instagram Limits feature to reduce racist, homophobic and sexist comments photo 2

Hidden Words - filter abuse

Instagram takes the stance DMs are private and so it doesn't actively look for hate speech or abuse in direct messages. However, the company knows that people are still suffering abuse in those messages. 

The Hidden Words feature lets you manually combat this problem by creating a list of offensive words, phrases and emojis. This list is then applied to DM requests to prevent you from getting the messages in the first place. 

Instagram says it has already worked with anti-discrimination and anti-bullying bodies to create a predefined list of offensive terms that will filter DM requests, but you can also choose to create your own list. 

In order to do this, you'll need to visit your settings to activate it. 

  1. Click on your profile
  2. Click on the burger menu on the top right
  3. Click settings
  4. Click Privacy 
  5. Then click on Hidden Words

From this section of the settings, you have the option to hide abusive comments, message requests and more. Halfway down that list, you'll also see the option to create a custom word list. Enter things you find offensive in there and then you won't need to worry about. 

Those filtered messages are automatically filtered into a separate hidden requests folder so you can manually check and choose to accept the messages, delete them or report the sender. 

Stronger warnings for senders 

Instagram says it is working to combat abusive messages before they're even sent. The company shows a warning when it thinks a user is trying to send an offensive direct message or post an abusive comment. 

That message will warn the sender that their message may be going against the community guidelines and warns that the message may be deleted. It's hoped that this will discourage bad behaviour and reduce the need for the tools as well. 

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Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 11 August 2021.