We welcome tools to protect against online abuse

Our response to Instagram's announcement that they are rolling out new features to prevent users from receiving abusive direct messages.

We are pleased to see that Instagram has announced new safety features to help protect users of the platform from online hate speech and abuse. One in ten people with a visible difference are repeatedly harassed on social media.

Users will be able to switch on a feature to filter DM requests. Instagram has developed a list of offensive terms that people can select from, ensuring DM requests containing those terms are sent to a separate folder that you can then choose to view or not. Importantly, they’ve also added a feature that will allow you to create your own custom list of words, phrases or emojis that you don’t want to see in your DM requests. As the messages won’t be deleted, you can still choose whether to accept, delete or report the message request.

A woman with Crouzon syndrome wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

Mikaela has Crouzon syndrome and is a Changing Faces campaigner

Changing Faces campaigner, Mikaela says, “I’m glad that Instagram is stepping up and giving users tools to better protect ourselves from people sending abusive messages. This is a good step! I also hope that they continue listening to our community – and any marginalised folks at risk on the platform – to better understand appearance-related abuse and hate speech, so that when it’s reported, it’s taken more seriously.”

Instagram has announced that the feature will be rolled out across several countries in coming weeks.

Changing Faces wants anyone with a visible difference, and the general public, to know that if someone is abused or harassed because of the way they look, they can report it as a hate incident or a hate crime. If you’ve experienced abuse because of how you look, we have guidance on how to report it and where you can get support.

I’m glad that Instagram is stepping up and giving users tools to better protect ourselves from people sending abusive messages. This is a good step! I also hope that they continue listening to our community – and any marginalised folks at risk on the platform – to better understand appearance-related abuse and hate speech, so that when it’s reported, it’s taken more seriously.

Mikaela, Changing Faces campaigner

No-one should experience abuse, in person or online, because of how they look. Changing Faces is committed to working with social media companies and the Home Office to help improve the online experience for people with a visible difference.

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