Public comment sections adhere to philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ assessment of under-regulated human life– nasty and brutish.
Recognizing this unfortunate fact of the internet, Instagram is endowing users with the power to filter their comment section or disallow comments altogether.
The tool for filtering comments will be at the profile level. Users will be able to create their own list of banned words, and any comment containing a word on the list will be automatically deleted.
On a picture by picture basis, users can delete individual comments or turn off all comments. Instagram has not indicated whether or not users will ever have the option disable commenting for the whole profile.
Social media sites have struggled to combat cyberbullying and avoid over-censoring. However, Instagram’s new features should help all users feel more comfortable sharing online. Putting the filters in the hands of the user decreases the need for an outside moderator and hopefully will embolden any victims of online harassment. Maybe when comments can be blocked without a second thought, the hurt will dissipate more quickly too.