Following the abrupt exit of Instagram's co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger last year, the duo handed over the reins to their VP of Product Adam Mosseri, naming him as the new Head of Instagram.
Mosseri’s career saw him joining Facebook in 2008, working for the design and product departments, before making the move to Instagram in 2018 as their VP of Product. Speaking of the appointment, Systrom and Krieger noted their excitement, due to Mosseri’s "focus on craft and simplicity" and "deep understanding of the importance of community”.
This back-to-basics mentality in the company’s mission has not been plucked out of thin air. Since Mosseri has taken over, there has been an ongoing effort to counter cyberbullying, among other issues, after the company came under fire for not taking enough responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of its users.
As a result, there have been a range of updates to the App over the past few months:
Chat Stickers on Stories
Instagram’s newest Stories sticker allows users to create group chats, with the poster being able to choose who can join in. Friends tap the sticker to request entry to a group chat and the poster can then end the chat at any time. Following on from other Stories stickers such as polls and countdowns, this sticker is being promoted as a solution for ordinary people who want to co-ordinate plans with their friends, as opposed to benefiting influencers and those with curated or sponsored content.
By providing a tool for users to arrange plans with their circle of friends, could this be seen as Instagram’s attempt to counter the argument that social media has become a replacement to real-life social engagement?
Are you sure you want to post this?
This is the question that AI has been programmed to ask users, in an attempt to reduce bullying behaviours online. Offering the chance to reflect before sending, Instagram is using AI to identify negative comments and allow people the chance to think twice.
However, the idea of AI being able to qualify aggressive behaviours, deciding what should and shouldn’t be blocked, has generated concerns about free speech. Yet, instead of shying away from taking accountability for Instagram’s content, Mosseri is willing to “make decisions that mean people use Instagram less, if it keeps people more safe”.
With society congregating digitally more and more, it’s crucial that companies develop practices for policing threatening behaviours. Mosseri is hopeful that more platforms will adopt Instagram’s AI practices in the future.
Removing the Likes Count
Across several countries, Instagram has been trialling the removal of the Likes Count underneath a post, now displaying a user’s name “and others” instead of a total number of likes. Whoever posted the image is still able to see the total amount of likes that the post received - it’s simply not viewable publicly. In an attempt to reduce social pressure, this move can be seen as a direct reaction to the suggestion that Instagram is the, “worst social media network for health and wellbeing”. Mosseri has also since stated that he doesn’t want Instagram to be, “such a competition”.
Not everyone is happy with this decision though - particularly social media influencers who rely on the amount of likes they get in order to be discovered by brands and potential sponsors. How will businesses be able to judge the engagement on an influencer’s post without knowing how many people have liked it?
Another pertinent question is whether the move will encourage people to like posts more, or less? We’ll have to wait and see.
A stricter account disable policy
Instagram’s recent changes to their policy regarding disabling accounts mean that users who have been breaking too many of the platform’s Community Guidelines will now receive a warning in advance, helping people understand if their account is at risk of being disabled, instead of suddenly being unable to log in. Users will also immediately be able to appeal any content that has been removed.
Furthermore, Instagram will now disable accounts that break numerous rules within a shorter window of time, as opposed to previously where only accounts with a certain percentage of violating content were removed.
Keep your eyes peeled for more updates – the platform still has more ideas in the pipeline, including; “Away Mode” to assist users who are taking a break from the App, and “Restrict” capabilities which would allow people to control the comments that other users see on their profile.
With social media now being so central to society’s day-to-day life, Instagram’s new features can be seen as a positive step in the right direction for the social media giants taking more responsibility for their users.