Instagram fails to protect women from 90 percent of abusive messages

Occurred: April 2022

Instagram is 'systemically' failing to protect its users, including high-profile women, from harassment and abuse, according to a study by non-profit organisation the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). 

The CCDH analysed over 8,700 messages sent to five high-profile celebrities on the app from 253 accounts, and found that 90 percent of abuse sent to them was ignored by Instagram, despite being reported to moderators. The CCDH also found that 227 of these accounts remained active at least one month after complaints were filed.

The five celebrities included actor Amber Heard, British broadcaster Rachel Riley, activist Jamie Klingler, journalist Bryony Gordon, and the founder of Burnt Roti magazine, Sharan Dhaliwal. 

Each handed over their Instagram accounts to the CCDH so their DMs could be monitored over a period of number of months. In one instance, Instagram failed to remove accounts that made death threats to Amber Heard's family, including her infant daughter. 

In February 2021 Instagram rolled out tougher measures to punish online harassment, including the disabling of accounts reported multiple times for sending 'violating messages.'

Instagram has previously been in the firing line for failing to protect teen girls from mental health harms, and Black English footballers from racist abuse.

Operator: Meta/Instagram
Developer: Meta/Instagram
Country: UK; USA
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Moderate content  
Technology: Content moderation system
Issue: Safety
Transaparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing

Research, advocacy 🧮