Instagram gives celebrities power to block internet trolls
Social media attacks on celebrities have been thwarted after Instagram handed Taylor Swift and other high-profile users the special ability to block thousands of internet trolls.
The photo-sharing website, beloved of the American popstar and fellow celebrities including Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian, has granted its most popular users a new tool allowing them to automatically prevent slurs and insults.
The move is a new defence against armies of online bullies, which have forced several high-profile users off Twitter and have been blamed for causing stress and depression.
Swift, 26, has been inundated with abusive comments amid a public row with Kardashian, the reality TV star who is married to rapper Kanye West, as well as reportedly feuding with her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris and the singer Katy Perry.
After Swift criticised a song released by West as “derogatory”, Kardashian shared a video of a phone call in which the popstar appeared to give West’s lyrics her approval.
Swift, who has more than 86 million followers on Instagram, was labelled a “snake” and bombarded with comments featuring the green snake emoji.
While Instagram allows users to delete comments on their own photos and report them to moderators, celebrities have not been able to deal with the thousands of comments they receive. Crews of hardcore fans associating themselves with celebrities often organise targeted attacks on rivals, flooding their social media accounts with abuse.
Instagram did not expand on how the new feature, which is being tested by VIPs with large online audiences, prevents abuse, but it is believed to automatically block comments that feature phrases that have previously been reported.
This could mean, for example, that if Swift were to report a number of comments on her page featuring the snake emoji, further attempts to bombard her Instagram account with them would be blocked before they can be posted. Followers of the popstar noted last week that waves of comments featuring the symbol had been wiped from her profile.
"We’re always looking for ways to help people have a positive experience with comments on Instagram," a spokesman said. "We're currently focused on providing tools to improve accounts with the most high-volume comment threads. We will use our learnings to continue to improve the comment experience on Instagram."
Instagram, whose most popular profiles include the American actress Selena Gomez and the singer Ariana Grande, has more than 500 million users around the world and roughly 14 million in the UK. While it is trialling the feature with celebrity accounts, it may introduce new ways for all users to moderate comments in the coming months.
The feature is similar to one that has been used for some time by Facebook, which bought Instagram three years ago, and comes amid growing concerns about cyber-trolls.
Last week, Twitter permanently banned the provocative right-wing journalist Milo Yiannopoulos after he was said to have led a racist campaign against Leslie Jones, the black Ghostbusters actress, who was forced to delete her account amid a torrent of abuse.
Yiannopulos, whose account was removed after Jones was contacted by Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said the ban was an affront to free speech.
Last year, the coalition government passed legislation raising the maximum prison sentence for internet trolls to two years.