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Instagram Just Struck A Huge Blow Against Online Hate Speech

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Instagram, for better or worse, has always been about presenting images in a tightly-controlled environment. Sometimes people don't like it, such as those behind #FreeTheNipple, but this latest censorship measure can only be construed as a force for good.

Instagram that it will now allow users to hide comments containing certain keywords from their posts. The image-sharing giant has allowed users to eliminate the comments entirely in the past, but this feels like a good middle ground. The measure is an obvious response to the recent upsurge in deplorable hate speech incidents involving celebrities. Instagram may have gotten the inspiration for this feature when it protected Taylor Swift's account, or that may have been a test of the feature itself.

"To empower each individual, we need to promote a culture where everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment," Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom said in a blog post. "It’s not only my personal wish to do this, I believe it’s also our responsibility as a company."

We think that this type of change can be nothing but good. Hate speech doesn't have a place in any arena, let alone something as personal as social media. And social media is personal. Just because the BNP has the right to express their deplorable ideas doesn't mean that we're obligated to hear them. Harassment is a major issue for people online, especially those that don't fall under the white-male-heterosexual-cisgender umbrella. The idea that someone would attack a person for how they look, think, or express themselves is horrid. The idea that you get a push notification of their hate speech is worse still.

Here's how the feature works, according to the blog post:

"The first feature we’re introducing is a keyword moderation tool that anyone can use. Now, when you tap the gear icon on your profile, you’ll find a new Comments tool. This feature lets you list words you consider offensive or inappropriate. Comments with these words will be hidden from your posts. You can choose your own list of words or use default words we’ve provided. This is in addition to the tools we’ve already developed such as swiping to delete comments, reporting inappropriate comments and blocking accounts."

We applaud Instagram for making this change. Now Twitter has to get on board.
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