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Instagram to filter message requests in bid to tackle abuse

Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara among sports stars who say they have been subjected to racist abuse on social media.

Instagram to filter message requests in bid to tackle abuse iStockSNS Group

Instagram users will be able to filter out abusive messages and comments they receive as part of a new update unveiled by the social media platform.

Scottish Premiership footballers and other sports stars have revealed widespread racist, sexist and other abuse sent to them on the platform in recent months, sparking outrage.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard said earlier this month that social media companies are ignoring the abuse being posted on their channels.

Players and staff at the Ibrox club – including Gerrard – started a week-long social media boycott, following on from Championship clubs Swansea and Birmingham announcing club-wide blackouts.

Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara said he has been subjected to daily racist abuse on social media since he alleged Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela had abused him during a Europa League match on March 18.

Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings became the latest high-profile player to highlight abuse on social media, posting a screenshot on his Twitter account on Friday of a racist message from an Instagram user.

Now Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has announced a new tool that will allow users to automatically filter Direct Message (DM) requests from people they do not follow if the messages contain offensive words, phrases or emojis.

The new tool will enable users to build a list of offensive terms – using terms on a predefined list created by Instagram in collaboration with anti-discrimination and anti-bullying groups as well as any others added by users themselves – which will then be used to filter out any messages containing these terms, phrases or emojis.

Instagram said the tool will focus on the message request section of DMs, meaning messages from users the account owner does not follow, as this is where abuse normally comes from.

A new section of the app’s privacy settings called Hidden Words has been created to house the tool, which can also be applied to comments under an account’s posts.

The social media giant confirmed it will begin rolling out to people in the UK in the coming weeks.

Fadzai Madzingira, content policy manager at Instagram, told the PA news agency that “no one should have to deal with abuse on Instagram, whether it is racist, sexist, homophobic or any other type of abuse – no one should have to deal with it anywhere, full stop”.

She added: “We take very seriously our commitment to protecting people and doing everything we can to protect them from this abuse.”

Madzingira said the new tool and other recent Instagram updates were part of its ongoing response to reports of abuse on the platform, admitting it was a “complex challenge” with “no single step that could eliminate it all”.

Alongside the filtering tool, Instagram also revealed another new feature designed to limited unwanted contact, which will prevent someone who has been blocked by a user from contacting them again through a new account.