A couple of years ago, Instagram was named the worst platform for cyber-bullying by anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label. Since then, the app has made a concerted effort to change the way people use the platform; this year it trialled the hiding of visible likes, in 2018 it blocked offensive comments, and now it addresses captions, too. In the latest update, Instagram’s newly trained AI will now detect offensive language in an effort to tackle cyberbullying at a wider level. How does it work? From now on when you write a caption with potentially offensive language, a pop-up window will appear with a warning, asking you to confirm whether or not you’d like to go ahead with your choice of words. The notification will appear saying ‘this caption looks similar to others that have been reported,’ giving you the opportunity to edit the caption before hitting share. Essentially, you need to think twice.
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A definite step forward for social media, that comes in the wake of an apparent giant step back for other tech giants. Recently, a string of reports have claimed that Apple and Amazon employees were transcribing unsolicited conversations, recorded without the permitting ‘wake word.’ The ‘Hey Siri,’ ‘Alexa,’ and ‘Hey Google’ sound should be heard to trigger the listening action, but user’s privacy has been compromised by transcribers listening in even when the command is not made. Yup. It seems Alexa is indeed spying on you. So where does this leave us? Where you may want to change the settings on your AI device to ‘opt out’ of reporting ‘accidental recordings’ (yes, you can do this), we’d like to see Instagram’s attempts to tackle bullying as a silver lining, at the very least.
So where does this contrasting news leave us? Voice assistant systems may be recording your most sordid audible activities (true story, sorry) without consent, whilst our most prolific social platform is pushing to create a more civil social society. It appears that in our ever-growing digital landscape, it’s a case of you win some, you lose some.