Instagram has announced a ban on all graphic self-harm images on its app. The photo-sharing site started adding sensitivity screens to uploaded images and videos that were thought to be harmful for young people earlier this week. Those images are blurred so they are not immediately visible to users.
“We will not allow any graphic images of self-harm, such as cutting on Instagram – even if it would previously have been allowed,” said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, in a press release. “We have never allowed posts that promote or encourage suicide or self-harm, and will continue to remove it when reported.”
The social media platform also said non-graphic self-harm images or videos, such as photos of healed scars, would still be allowed but they would be more difficult to find. They would not be included in search results, hashtags, and recommended content.
“We are not removing this type of content from Instagram entirely, as we don’t want to stigmatise or isolate people […] who are posting self-harm related content as a cry for help,” said Mosseri.
Instagram is also focused on providing more resources to people posting and searching for self-harm images, and directing them to organisations that can give them support.
For example, users can now anonymously report a post that contains potential suicide or self-harm content. When the person who posted this content opens the app next time, they will see a message connecting them to support resources, such as helplines. These support tools will also show up after a person searches for distressing content on Instagram. These changes follow the death of 14-year-old British student Molly Russell, whose parents believed she took her own life after being exposed to images of self-harm and suicide on Instagram and image-sharing website Pinterest in 2017.
“I think Instagram’s intentions are good because they are taking a stance against self-harm,” said Cyrus Fung Wai-lim, 16, a student at HKUGA College. “But the effectiveness of the sensitivity screens is questionable, since users can still see the content after indicating that they want to see it.”
Cyrus added that Instagram is facing a dilemma. He said that although the most effective way was to take down this type of content completely from Instagram, doing so would violate people’s freedom of expression.