When was the last time you wondered about the safety of a friend online? Whether someone has slid into their DMs or sent them unsolicited pictures, or even been the victim of pervasive bullying, safety online should be as much of a priority as it is offline.
That said, this year’s Safer Internet Day (February 11) was appropriately themed ‘Together For A Better Internet.’ Given there are about a billion monthly users globally, Instagram has decided that, instead of just a single day, this should be a full-fledged part of the online population’s day-to-day routine; the Facebook-owned platform has announced ‘Unlabel India’, an offline initiative to democratise the platform further and catalyse a safer social media experience.
This is Instagram’s response to the bullying and harassment that has permeated profiles on countless occasions.
In an email interview with MetroPlus , Tara Bedi, public policy and community outreach manager at Instagram, India, explains how the safety and well-being of our community is the platform’s top priority with ‘Unlabel India’, adding, “We will lead a country wide conversation with students to spark a movement of kindness, empathy and respect, that is core to our platform and hopefully percolates to the entire community.”
Batting for mental health
Instagram, which turns 10 this year, has teamed up with Yuvaa (a youth media and insights company) to approach this in a phased manner. “The first phase will be a roadshow to 20 cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bengaluru included — in 50 colleges, where young Indians will be encouraged to speak up on issues such as mental health, bullying, safe spaces and gender sensitivity.”
Tara adds that the next phase will be about having “a sustained engagement with the colleges through ‘kindness clubs’, ‘kindness ambassadors’ and targeted digital campaigns. We aim to reach half a million people via online and offline engagements by the end of the year with this initiative.” Basically, the idea is to spread the good word of the Internet’s more positive aspects.
- India’s digital space is swirling with political and social dissent — centred around the CAA and NRC conflicts. Instagram remains neutral while keeping hate speech off its pages.
- Tara Bedi explains, “To do this, we have dedicated content reviewers who are based around the world and who speak India’s majority languages natively, and we’ve also invested significantly in proactive detection technologies to help us find violating content on our services more quickly. We also publish a Community Standards Enforcement Report, which shows how we’re doing at finding and removing violating content on Facebook and Instagram.”
“We also have the Counter Speech Fellowship which is run with our partner, Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC),” adds Tara, “to engage creative teens to use the power of visual storytelling to start meaningful conversations on issues that are important to young citizens around the world. Mental health is a strong theme covered in this fellowship.”
Declining mental health (leading toissues such as depression, isolation, body image dysmorphia, etc) unfortunately, is a given when it comes to the pressures of social media. Tara says the Time Spent tools on Instagram and Facebook which include an activity dashboard, a daily reminder and a new way to limit notifications are part of this scheme. “We developed these tools based on collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organisations, academics, our own extensive research and feedback from our community.”
On October 10’s World Mental Health Day last year, Instagram and Facebook announced a global donation of up to US$1 million to a group of mental health organisations, of which Goa-based Sangath’s ‘It’s Okay To Talk’ initiative, a strong Instagram partner, is one of them, points out Tara.
Last November at Wired25 in San Francisco, USA, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced that US audiences would be the first testing grounds for the ‘hiding likes’ feature. Predictably, the Internet pretty much imploded, and other countries started following suit.
Enter the Private Likes Counts test; a recent addition to Instagram’s framework. “We rethought the whole experience of Instagram and recently announced [this feature], which we also expanded globally... This includes helping people to focus on the photos and videos they share, not how many likes they get. While the feedback from early testing has been positive, this is a fundamental change to Instagram, and so we’re continuing our test to learn more from our global community. We hope that by making the number of likes private, people will be able to focus more on the photos and videos posted in Feed, and that this will ultimately drive deeper engagement.”
Instagram also recently launched a new way for people to manage their followers, depending on their offline interactions; basically one can decide who of their followers can see certain parts of their content... liken it to the Close Friends feature, but on steroids.