Instagram announces permanent suspensions for hate speech in DMs

At long last, Instagram is cracking down on racist and derogatory content within its direct messenger function. Hate speech will now lead to permanent account suspensions.

Instances of racism on Instagram are once again receiving mainstream attention, and parent company Facebook is determined to finally nip the issue in the bud once and for all.

Policing content within people’s private messages is a tetchy task and brings to head a bunch of issues involving privacy and freedom of speech.

However, with instances of racist abuse not just continuing to propagate, but becoming more commonplace within Instagram’s direct messaging function, the social network has now been forced to toughen its stance on hate speech content.

A stricter hate speech policy

Previously, when a user sent a DM deemed to have breached Instagram’s hate speech policy, company moderators would prohibit that person from sending messages for a set period of time.

As of today though, Instagram has announced that instances of violation within DMs may result in permanent suspensions, and repeat offenders will quickly be exiled from the platform. It also states that any troll accounts created solely to sidestep restrictions will be found and removed too.

Instagram has been firm in its zero tolerance of racist and anti-religious sentiments for some time now – reportedly detecting and penalising 6.5 million unreported instances of hate speech (including DMs) between July and September last year.

The app also put in place several comment filter tools which allowed users to stop certain phrases or emojis from appearing in their DMs and tile comments.

Despite these efforts however, instances of implicit abuse – particularly racism – have shot up with disturbing frequency in recent weeks, and all eyes are on the big social media platforms to adapt faster.

Would you believe it’s currently Black History Month?

Where has this issue stemmed from?

As we’d previously touched on, a mounting sense of pressure from the public has stemmed from several high-profile cases of racism on Instagram, and they all have one thing in common: they involve Premier League footballers.

In the last few weeks, I myself have seen comment sections littered with abuse, and athletes sharing distressing screenshots of their DM inboxes.

Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe, Manchester United Women’s Lauren James, and Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Reece James are part of a growing list of footballers being racially targeted on the app following setbacks on the pitch.

Several Premier League clubs have released statements condemning such behaviour, and the UK government has responded by suggesting laws will soon start to hold social media companies accountable for the malicious content they enable. Instagram, to its credit, was quick to address the issue within the first paragraph of its newest blog entry.

Finding a resolution

I guess what these particular cases highlight is that social media platforms need to further consider business and influencer accounts that tend to have far larger follower traffic than your average user. The fight against racism simply cannot be won if any demographic is overlooked.

With the public firmly focusing on Instagram, it’s already started to roll out new bulk controls to stop abuse from filtering through and has suggested that some may want to turn off mentions or tags from users they don’t know.

A spokesperson for Instagram stated, ‘we’re committed to doing everything we can to fight hate and racism on our platform, but we also know these problems are bigger than us. We look forward to working with other companies, football associations, NGOs, governments, parents and educators, both on and offline.’


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