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Instagram needs to do something about its harassment problem

Instagram needs to do something about its harassment problem

Instagram was never a safe space. It’s infested with sexist trolls ready to send death threats when needed. And guess what? Instagram CEOs are barely doing anything about it.

The Atlantic’s latest tell-all piece is about Instagram’s harassment problem. They revealed the instances wherein the social media platform failed to protect its users from bullying and harassment. From simple teens enjoying the ‘gram to celebrities connecting with their fanbase, the trolls do not spare anyone.

One of the people they interviewed about the issue was Montreal-based feminist Sarah, whose account, @douconsideryourselfafeminist, shares personal accounts of cyberbullying on a daily basis. “There’s not a day that goes by without death threats, rape threats, insults,” she says to The Atlantic. She continued to explain that she does flag these comments for harassment, but “most of the time you get a report saying they don’t violate anything.”

The concept of “trolling” isn’t foreign to Instagram users. Like any social media platform, it’s prone to cyberbullies and trolls by default. But the range of bullying in Instagram escalates. Today, it can just be a sexist comment on how “women should go back to the kitchen,” but tomorrow they could greet a user with a death threat.

Today, it can just be a sexist comment on how “women should go back to the kitchen,” but tomorrow they could greet a user with a death threat.

Actress Violet Paley accused James Franco of sexual misconduct earlier this year. And since then, she has become a target for sexist trolls and Franco’s die-hard fans. But one of the worst instances was an Instagram user offering $1,000 for her home address. The overflowing death threats and Instagram’s inaction affected her so much that she had to reach out to the FBI for help.

All of these users in the article—from celebrities to run of the mill fan accounts—agree on the same thing: Instagram is doing nothing to remedy it.

“When I report things, I think they just go into somewhere and they ignore it,” Violet told The Atlantic. “Nothing ever happens.” She’s right about that. Instead, nothing happens to comments or users reported to Instagram personnel. What the social media platform has been up to is fanning the flames through public relations instead. Damage control rather than prevention.

According to Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson, Instagram founder, and then-CEO Kevin Systrom hoped that the platform would be “a kind social media utopia.” Instagram pushed for “its warm and fuzzy image” last year with their “Commitment to Kindness” campaign where they had celebrity endorsers, like the ever so relevant Jessica Alba, to encourage their followers to leave nice comments on other people’s posts.

These daisy fresh PR attempts smell nice and all. But what now? Will they do anything about their users’ safety?

“Generally, what you’ll find is a lot of these efforts on harassment or bullying, or there’s a new feature to track how much time you spend—they’re mostly done for PR,” an Instagram employee named Alex confesses to The Atlantic. They approached another Instagram employee who claimed that Instagram’s anti-bullying rhetoric “doesn’t seem connected to what’s actually going on in the company.”

Being a troll in any social media platform is easy- set up a fake account and do whatever sick deed that comes to mind until personnel gets a hold of you. ItHarassment on Instagram isn’t just two kids virtually pushing each other until one retaliates. This has gone too far.

Death threats are being issued and lives are literally at stake. And if The Atlantic‘s piece isn’t enough of a wake-up call, how far would their CEO let instances like these pass? Sorry Instagram, your severe harassment problem needs to go unfiltered this time around.

Art by Nika Arreola

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Rogin Losa
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