Instagram clamps down on harassment after sports stars face abuse

Instagram is taking action against racial abuse on its platform.

What you need to know

  • Instagram will now start banning accounts that engage in discriminatory abuse via private DMs after UK footballers were hit with abuse over the past couple of weeks.
  • Users who create new accounts to get around the ban will be banned again.
  • Instagram also directed owners of public or business accounts to tools limiting engagement with users they don’t follow.

Social media’s biggest boon doubles as its biggest bane. While it can connect like-minded people who would otherwise not have met and help maintain long-distance relationships, it can also provide a direct funnel for abuse to otherwise inaccesisble targets. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter (among others) have taken steps to address much of the racist or discriminatory content that appears on the public-facing part of their respective platforms, but Instagram is taking it one step further.

Instagram today announced that it would now be cracking down on on abuse and harassment sent behind closed doors, i.e. through direct messages or DMs.

Writing in a blog post, the company said:

Today, we’re announcing that we’ll take tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules in DMs. Currently, when someone sends DMs that break our rules, we prohibit that person from sending any more messages for a set period of time. Now, if someone continues to send violating messages, we’ll disable their account. We’ll also disable new accounts created to get around our messaging restrictions, and will continue to disable accounts we find that are created purely to send abusive messages.

Instagram also noted that it would work with UK law enforcement where necessary. Abusive social media comments in the UK fall under remit of the Malicious Communications Act, and can be prosecuted with that. However, the company said it would push back if necessary.

Instagram is making this change after UK footballers were targeted by furious fans in the recent past. Sky News reports that footballers Marcus Rashford, Axel Tunazebe, Anthony Martial, Alex Jankewitz, and more were targets of such abuse in the past week, prompting a joint statement from their respective clubs.

Instagram also highlighted some of the tools it rolled out last year to help combat abuse. Users can now mass delete comments and mass block accounts if faced with a flood of abuse. The company also noted that its prompts to urge users to be more polite if they drafted a particuarly abrasive comment also resulted in a „meaningful“ drop in messages flagged as abuse.


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