To better protect exposed users, Instagram has released a new set of regulations on images of self-harm, including cutting and healed scars.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri has blogged four new measures to expand the platform’s rules on related content.
- We will not allow any graphic images of self-harm, such as cutting, on Instagram – even if it would previously have been allowed as admission. We have never allowed posts that promote or encourage suicide or self-harm, and will continue to remove it when reported.
- We will not show non-graphic, self-harm related content – such as healed scars – in search, hashtags and the explore tab, and we won’t be recommending it. We are not removing this type of content from Instagram entirely, as we don’t want want to stigmatize or isolate people who may be in distress and posting self-harm related content as a cry for help.
- We want to support people in their time of need – so we are also focused on getting more resources to people posting and searching for self-harm related content and directing them to organizations that can help.
- We’re continuing to consult with experts to find out what more we can do, this may include blurring any non-graphic self-harm related content with a sensitivity screen, so that images are not immediately visible.
The rules will hit artistic works. The issues these may cause for at-risk users outweigh creativity. So, Instagram is taking a stronger stance on this front.
Instagram says the choice to restrict photos of healed scars, even if it shows by accident, also outweighs the trauma it may cause.
We have yet to see the effect these changes will spur in the long run. False positives are normal. Machine learning algorithms have yet to improve how it detects scars in images.
Instagram admits the issue is complex. It pledges to continue finding the best solution.
Up until now, we’ve focused most of our approach on trying to help the individual who is sharing their experiences around self-harm. We have allowed content that shows contemplation or admission of self-harm because experts have told us it can help people get the support they need. But we need to do more to consider the effect of these images on other people who might see them.
Social media influences mental and emotional state, especially with depression. All social networks must continue to investigate and seek better solutions to improve the situation.
A study conducted by The Royal Society for Public Health in 2017 showed that, of all social networks, Instagram had the biggest impact to higher levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and fear of missing out (FOMO).
Read Instagram’s full blog post here.