Instagram Turns to AI to Block Hate Comments and Trolls

Screenshot taken from the video

Ever been bothered by hateful, mean, or mocking comments on your work from trolls lurking on Instagram? The app’s CEO Kevin Systrom is rolling out plans to block those through Artificial Intelligence. As a social platform, Instagram’s success has been largely attributed to people’s desire to share a slice of their life through photos and images. Likewise, many visual artists and photographers can connect part of their success to reaching out to their existing and potential clients by sharing their work on the platform. While it’s all good that Instagram has evolved into a tool for connecting people all over the world for both business and personal reasons, it bothers Systrom that it has also become littered with mean, hateful, and inappropriate comments.

In a video interview (see below) with WIRED Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson, Systrom mentions that apart from initially combing through posts and deleting these comments themselves, they also went as far as deleting “accounts that were being not so nice to people.” As the Instagram community grew years on, one can just imagine what a tedious task it has become to prune the trolls in this way. Despite enabling spam and comment filtering, malicious comments still come flying around. Here’s where technology offered Systrom a solution in the form of AI algorithms based off human ratings of what makes a comment good or bad, allowing it to detect mean or hateful comments with amazing accuracy.

On a more practical sense for professional photographers, this could save them the burden of having to deal with malicious comments that could potentially hurt or destroy their business. Dallas wedding photographer Andrea Polito is one such victim, with her high-profile case involving an extensive smear campaign on social media by a couple who claimed that she held their pictures “hostage,” charged them “unreasonable fees,” and “scammed” them.

As any change is bound to get some backlash, a number of users see Instagram’s move as an alarming form of censorship. Given his understanding of the age-old debate on the limits of free speech, Systrom still wants Instagram to be remain a community that encourages self-expression without the fear of being attacked.

“What is the limit of free speech, and is it free speech to just be mean to someone? I think if you look at the history of the law on free speech, you’ll find that generally, there’s a line where you don’t want to cross because you’re starting to be aggressive, or be mean, or racist. You get to a point where you want to make sure that in a closed community that’s trying to grow and thrive, you make sure that you actually optimize for overall free speech.”