Instagram is changing sensitive content filters

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Last year, Instagram added a way for users to filter out some types of “sensitive” content from the Explore tab.

Now, Instagram is extending this setting, allowing users to turn off this content in recommendations via the app.

Instagram doesn’t offer much transparency about how it defines sensitive content or even what’s important. When it introduced control of sensitive content last year, the company phrased sensitive content as “posts that don’t necessarily violate our rules but may be annoying to some people — such as posts that may be sexually suggestive or violent.”

Expanded content controls will soon be applied to search, Rails, hashtag pages, “Accounts you may follow” and suggested posts in the feed. Instagram says the changes will be rolled out to all users within the coming weeks.

Instead of allowing users to ignore certain content topics, Instagram controls only have three settings, one of which shows you a smaller amount of this group of content, a standard setting and an option to see more sensitive content. Instagram users under the age of 18 will not be able to choose the latter setting.

In a Help Center post to explain the content controls in more depth, describing the category as content that “hampers our ability to foster a safe community.” per Instagram, which includes:

Content that may depict violence, such as fighting between people. (We are removing graphically violent content.)

Content that may be sexually explicit or suggestive, such as pictures of people in transparent clothing. (Download content that includes adult nudity or sexual activity.)

Content that promotes the use of certain regulated products, such as tobacco, vaping products, adult products and services, or pharmaceutical drugs. (We remove content that attempts to sell or trade most regulated goods.)

Content that may promote or depict cosmetic procedures.

Content that may be trying to sell products or services based on health-related claims, such as promoting a dietary supplement to help a person lose weight.”

In the images accompanying the blog posts, Instagram states that “some people don’t want to see content on topics like drugs or firearms.”

As we noted when the option was introduced, Instagram’s lack of transparency about how it defines sensitive content and its decision not to offer more granular content controls to users is troubling, particularly given its decision to combine sex and violence as “sensitive”.

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