October 16, 2018 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Instagram Has a Massive Harassment Problem The platform has cast itself as the internet’s kindest place. But users argue harassment is rampant, and employees say efforts to stem it aren’t funded well or prioritized. (Taylor Lorenz for The Atlantic)
posted by box (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Instagram The Internet Has a Massive Harassment Problem
posted by parliboy at 2:03 PM on October 16, 2018 [16 favorites]

Social media was a mistake.
posted by lkc at 2:05 PM on October 16, 2018 [53 favorites]

Instagram The Internet Humanity Has a Massive Harassment Problem
posted by Thorzdad at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2018 [21 favorites]

Social media was a mistake.

Pretty much the very first thing I did when I first got online in about 1982 was to get kickbanned from a CompuServe CB channel, so yeah.
posted by rhizome at 2:14 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hasn't Instagram leadership ever heard the truism, "tech doesn't fix people problems?" It's pretty old.
posted by rhizome at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Instagram's leadership got fired by Facebook's leadership a couple of weeks ago. Make of that what you will.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:23 PM on October 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

People applying tech to people problems with a will towards fixing those problems can actually be pretty effective... suspect they have the Twitter problem of thinking of the harassers as their truest users.
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

I will laugh and laugh if this is submarine PR by FB to justify their revamping the whole thing into an even worse piece of shit.

Systrom and Krieger seem to have left of their own accord, and I haven't seen any dirt that it was a disguised firing.
posted by rhizome at 2:34 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you try to manage a (mostly) free service with a combination of algorithms and customer reporting it will eventually drive off all the people that are worth having and turn into a wasteland of arseholes and bots.

I wanted to leave most social media because of the toxic users. It was easy to leave the worst social media not because of the large amount of negative stuff, but because of the complete absence of positive stuff. I had a look at the value the big services like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter had provided me in the year or so before I left and worked out it was so near zero that it was emotionally trivial to do a final data export and delete my accounts.
posted by krisjohn at 3:09 PM on October 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yeah, just got an update today on an account I reported August 28 for shitposting a bunch of wildly racist comments after a Proud Boys flare-up locally — they've been banned for violating Instagram's TOS, but fer Chrissakes it takes them a month and a half to ban a groyper avatar dropping n-bombs in strangers' feeds? Hell, even obvious spammers spamming takes Insta weeks most times.

I know moderation doesn't scale, but it seems like mostly they don't give a fuck and about half the time I report some hideous content, I get back a note that makes it clear that they don't understand why I reported it at all. It's weird to say it, but Twitter's reporting system seems a lot more functional and they're regularly able to ban Nazis within a week.
posted by klangklangston at 3:45 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Basically if you repeat bad actors enough times with Twitter something is going to stick eventually, presuming they are acting in an obviously shitty way that doesn’t require any context of intelligence to determine.

Which is dumb, but people seem to be putting enough time into doing it to make it count for something these days, in part out of tiredness of having nazis scouting everyone else’s account to do the same thing.

Pretty sure if they actually cared they could do more about repeat bad actors using traffic analysis but they’ve demonstrated repeatedly it’s only a problem they care about so much and no more.
posted by Artw at 4:20 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Systrom and Krieger seem to have left of their own accord, and I haven't seen any dirt that it was a disguised firing.

I haven't been following this closely but my initial assumption was certainly rather the opposite - that they had just had it with Facebook leadership.
posted by atoxyl at 4:50 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Valid point about the difference between quitting out of frustration versus being pushed out.

Either way, though, the article I saw suggested that there was some kind of last straw situation between them and Facebook. Probably not over moderation, but Facebook's general priorities are definitely not likely to make anything better now that the founders are out.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:03 PM on October 16, 2018

I guess four years of "just copy whatever Snapchat is doing" was just too much for them.
posted by sideshow at 5:03 PM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

At Instagram and Facebook, Alex said, “features can make whatever progress ... but can’t hurt the other metrics. A feature might decrease harassment 10 percent, but if it decreases users by 1 percent, that’s not a trade-off that will fly. Internally right now, no one is willing to make that trade-off.”
That is pretty much everything, right there.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:33 PM on October 16, 2018 [31 favorites]

I know moderation doesn't scale

I would argue that it can, but you need to be willing to swing the banhammer a lot more frequently and with a certain brutality.

For example, say I ban four accounts, and you (Random User #1) happened to follow only five accounts, including these four plus one other Random User #2, then I need to be willing to ban Random User #1 at the first sign of iniquity. Ye shall know them by the trail of the dead, so to speak.

Network effects scale in interesting ways, and moderation systems should be using network analysis.

Another method: you sent an unpleasant message to someone, and they reported you. If you used substantially the same words as X number of other users (sealioning etc.) messaging that person (or persons like them) within a given unit of time, then I should be able to ban everyone who sent a similar message to those recipients with a single click of my mouse. Or just stack-rank all of those assholes, and make it trivial for me to ban the top 50% of them.

(obviously, actual numbers would depend on proper analysis of the network in question, the 4-vs-5 thing mentioned above is purely illustrative. and yes, when I say ban above I am loosely referring to punishments ranging from timeouts to full account deletions. given tools like this I personally could probably punish upwards of several thousand people in a single work day, so given a team of ten people or so you'd make a pretty serious dent in short order. not that these assholes would ever ever ever countenance such a thing.)
posted by aramaic at 9:28 PM on October 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

If only the parent company had some modern machine learning systems in place, they could probably find the worst offenders easily enough and put them in front of a moderator. But clearly, they value users' privacy too much.
posted by suetanvil at 5:35 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you, Aramaic, for teaching me the term "sealioning." That is an INCREDIBLY useful short-hard for describing that sort of behavior.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 7:09 AM on October 17, 2018

You know who the worst harassers on FB are? Cops. And their friends and family.

With all of these videos now popping up of cops doing what cops have always done, people are now shocked on a global scale. Their behavior is as it always has been, only now they are now doing in front of the world instead of some innocent bystander in abject shock and horror of what they are doing. Which is usually a blatant violation of constitutional rights, if not much, much worse.

The blue line people are out in force on Instagram. Try this for yourself - make one pro-victim or anti-cop comment on a video of a cop doing something just incredibly beyond the pale. I absolutely guarantee you that you will get multiple followers almost instantly from accounts that are clearly cops or people in deep smit with cops. That's all. You won't get any messages, they won't respond to your comment in the thread, you'll just quietly get followers.

Let that sink in for a moment. They're playing the long game. I know this because I've talked with both lifelong convicts, as well as lifelong cops, and both of them talk in almost the exact same terminology about revenge being a dish best served very, very cold. Because then it's hard to connect and convict when it's meted out.

It makes me sad because I am sure there are well-meaning, good-intentioned police officers in my local force and those across America. The problem is they are all surrounded by cops.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:52 AM on October 17, 2018 [7 favorites]

Social media is designed to keep us all stuck in junior high...forever.
posted by ...possums at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Or we should take what a lot of people dismiss as the purview of children and recognize adults replicate the same patterns and sometimes enshrine them in policy in order to hurt the people they think deserve to be hurt.

What a lot of people dismiss as “drama” are patterns of systemic abuse which existed before you could tweet slurs at a thousand people. It was never “drama”. It was always pain and the people who cause it in others and get away with it.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Please tell me they don’t include burner accounts (created for the purpose of harassing/spamming) in their definition of “active user.” If they do, then prioritizing active user growth above all else pretty much guarantees that the platform will encourage increased harassment, since that is associated with an increase in burner accounts and thus active users.

Casts Facebook’s policy of requiring all accounts to represent real people in a positive new light. But somehow I don’t think that would fly on Instagram, where the premise is much less about “people interacting with people”. The images are at the forefront, and algorithms dominate. Which is what breeds harassment culture. Requiring that real person linkage to happen behind the scenes through stricter signup requirements probably wouldn’t fly either, since the increased friction would decrease successful signups of real people, not to mention burner accounts.

Seems the only way to get through to leadership is for real users to stop using it en masse. I wonder when social media will see its first organized walkout.
posted by mantecol at 1:48 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hey, how'd that Flickr acquisition thing pan out?
posted by tobascodagama at 2:11 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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