Instagram Offers More Tools To Fight Cyberbullies

For the third time this year, Instagram is offering new tools to users that both allow users more ways to manage their accounts if they’re being cyberbullied, and promote more positive interaction on the app.

Instagram logoWe have to give Instagram credit here; users have been asking for changes and more protection – users from high profile celebrities to random users who are being targeted by trolls and cyberbullies. Further, users typically don’t know how they want to be protected or what will work, so Instagram continues to iterate what they offer.

Today’s changes:

Comment Control – Users can now go to the advanced settings tab in the app and turn off others’ ability to comment on posts. Comments are where most of the rudeness and cyberbullying occur.

Like Comments – Before today, users could tap the heart button for posts, but not for comments. Now, if you see a comment that makes you smile, you can share the love.

Unfollow Users From Private Accounts – If your account is private (most teen accounts are – way to go kids!), and you’ve accepted a follow request, until now the only way to unfollow that account was to block them, in which case that user is notified. Now you can unfollow the user, which removes them from your feed without notifying them.

Below is some smart commentary from Bloomberg on the changes.

Nice job Instagram. Your move, Twitter.

 

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Yik Yak No Longer Anonymous

Back in March, we wrote a post titled “Yik Yak Is No Longer Fully Anonymous”. In it, we described how Yik Yak, which was formerly a fully anonymous, location based message board, was allowing users the option of choosing a handle. Handles could be your real name or whatever screen name you chose.

This week, bigger changes are afoot. As of today, Yik Yak users are required to choose a handle, their handle will be visible each time they post, and other users are shown a (partial?) list of the Yakkers around them when they’re logged in.

Yik Yak logoWhy the change?

Yik Yak has had more than its share of problems and bad behavior in the past, from cyberbullying to teacher bashing to users looking for drugs and alcohol hookups. It makes some sense that attaching an identity to user posts may cut down on some of the bad behavior.

There is also the element of discovery. If users see another Yakker in their area who posts content in line with their interests, they may make a connection.

Will handles eliminate all the bad behavior? Almost certainly not. Users can easily change their handle (I just did). Users can establish a second account for their hijinks. It looks to us like Yik Yak is becoming a location based Twitter knockoff, which incidentally has been notoriously difficult to manage and grow, and has huge problems with trolls and abuse.

Incidentally, on the topic of handles, back in March when we reviewed the original change, I changed my handle to my real name, assuming that I’d never use it or be identified as a Yik Yak user. Today I changed it to a nonsense handle that is in no way associated with me. If your teen also changed to his real name and wishes to post pseudonymously, he should do the same.

This highlights another issue with forums that allow users to post anonymously. They can, and do, change the rules, and those posts you thought were anonymous could become part of your permanent digital footprint. (Maybe not in this case exactly, but you get the point).

Yik Yak began as a forum to post nonsense, jokes and questions for those around you. Sometimes the trolls get the upper hand. We don’t expect that to change much.

 

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Twitter Is Not Likely To Eliminate Abuse

I’m a big fan of Twitter. Yes, I use it for work and our brand here at ThirdParent, but I also use it personally – a lot. It really is the best way to stay up to date on current events as they happen, and hear real time thoughts from leaders in literally every field.

Twitter logoThe main problem with Twitter is abuse and abusive users.

We’ve written about abuse and Twitter before – here and here and here. Twitter has been talking about abuse for a while, and sound like they have good intentions, but each tweak that they implement on the platform seems to come up short.

Last night, Twitter reported earnings and on the call CEO Jack Dorsey made comments that lead us to believe that they will never be able to make it a safe environment for some users. Dorsey’s comments in full:

“This is Jack. This is really, really important to me and to everyone at the company. So, I want to address both freedom of expression and safety together here, since the two intertwine.

We are not and never will be a platform that shows people only part of what’s happening or part of what’s being said. We are the place for news and social commentary. And at its best, the nature of our platform empowers people to reach across divides, and to build connections, to share ideas and to challenge accepted norms.

As part of that, we hope – and we also recognize it’s a high hope – to elevate civil discourse. And I emphasize civil discourse there. Abuse is not part of civil discourse. It shuts down conversation. It prevents us from understanding each other. Freedom of expression means little if we allow voices to be silenced because of fear of harassment if they speak up. No one deserves to be the target of abuse online, and it has no place on Twitter.

We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we must do better. That means building new technology solutions, making sure our policies and enforcement are consistent, and educating people about both. We’ve made improvements in the first half of the year, and we’re going to make more. We named safety as one of our top five priorities for this year, and recent events have only confirmed that this is truly one of the most important things for us to improve, and has motivated us to improve even faster.”

Why are we skeptical that they can stomp out abuse? There are indications that they don’t want to. Consider this sentence:

“We are not and never will be a platform that shows people only part of what’s happening or part of what’s being said.”

In any discourse, harsh disagreements, criticism and arguments are at times part of what is being said. Twitter wants to preserve that real discourse on its platform. To get rid of abuse entirely, they would be forced to manually review every reported interaction and decide where the fine line is between civil and uncivil disagreement. That’s pretty much impossible if they intend to let users speak their mind and err on the side of assuming users are innocent until totally proven guilty.

Instead, it appears that they want users to self-police, and “elevate civil discourse”. That is a nice goal but it won’t happen. There will always be some users who are genuinely mean, or get a kick out of trolling others. Twitter won’t be able to get this right without taking more extreme steps, unfortunately.

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

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Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

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Reddit Now Helps You Avoid the Trolls

Reddit is seen by many causal users and most who don’t use it as one of the Wild West corners of social media. Almost anything goes, and that makes it fertile hunting ground for the millions of trolls out there.

Trolls aren’t going away any time soon, as taunting-as-sport seems to be a full time hobby for some social media users of a certain personality. Reddit is trying to help.

snooThe help, however, comes in the form of something that looks like the shadowban that they used to deploy.

If you’re not familiar, a shadowban is an action by a social network wherein a user who gets reported for harassment is still allowed to post content, comments and send messages but those posts will be invisible to all other users. When in effect, the shadowbanned user was never informed of his change in status. Reddit figured out that there were better ways to do things and discontinued the practice last year.

This week Reddit is announcing a new “block user” feature. If someone is annoying, harassing or threatening you on Reddit, in addition to or instead of reporting that user and relying on Reddit to make things right, you can block them. When blocked, private messages and comment replies from that other user will not be visible to you. As with the shadowban, however, the other user will not be informed that he has been blocked.

Reddit is also taking a little heat already for not being more transparent, or not banning abusive users entirely, but it probably speaks to how difficult it is to define what behavior is truly abusive. With this solution, if you don’t want to see someone’s comments, you don’t have to.

We’re big fans of Reddit, which is an unpopular stance in the digital parenting crowd. Sure, it has lots of adult content, and more than its fair share of trolls and bullies, but for teens mature enough to avoid the rough spots, there is also a wealth of engaging, entertaining and educational content.

No solution is perfect, and we’re glad that Reddit continues to take steps to make its platform more user friendly. We’ll be watching this one carefully.

 

 

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Reddit Has A Problem

All hell broke loose on Reddit this week, the social media site where users can post and comment on just reddit-snooabout anything. Content is organized into subreddits that are curated by moderators around a specific topic, i.e r/newjersey is user submitted New Jersey news, r/pics is for pictures submitted by Redditors. After content is posted, other users can upvote or downvote the post, which results in the “best” content rising to the top of each subreddit.

The controversy this week revolved around a well-publicized policy change by Reddit – that they are cracking down on abusive users. From Reddit’s blog last month:

“Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.”

What Reddit did this week was delete 5 entire subreddit communities, including r/fatpeoplehate and r/hamplanethatred, two communities populated by people who hate on overweight folks. Of course banning such vile communities on principle alone based on the content might seem like a good idea but that is not what happened. The subreddits were banned because the moderators failed or chose not to crack down on abusive users – users who were abusing individuals on and off Reddit. The virtual riot that ensued was led by a very vocal minority of users that oppose any type of censorship on Reddit, and many of them even decided to decamp to another social site called Voat, which reportedly has even less censorship.

mathew-ingram-reddit

Reddit, with 170 million monthly users and 7 billion page views last month, is here to stay despite its sometime horrific content. Here’s what parents need to know:

If you have a teenage boy, he could be a Reddit user – The largest demographic on Reddit is young males. I have 2 teenage boys at home who are Reddit users, as are their friends from what I hear.

The bad content on Reddit will continue – Reddit is reacting to users who attack individuals, but vile content is not outlawed. For example, the extremely racist subreddit r/coontown has been unaffected, but we presume that if a user there attacked a specific individual, the individual reported the abuse and the moderators took no action, then the subreddit could be at risk.

There is lots of bad content online – We probably don’t have to tell you this, but every variety of despicable content is available online. Reddit is not the only problem – far from it.

There is lots of great content on Reddit – From communities revolving around video games, sports and yes, pictures of cats to wildly popular AMAs (Ask Me Anything) sessions with famous folks President Obama and Bill Gates, if your teen likes to dive deep into specific topics, a Reddit community probably has what he is looking for.

Once your teen has unsupervised internet access, it is virtually impossible to tell him which sites he can visit and know that he will comply. What you can do is talk to him, frequently, about what types of content are age appropriate, and what types of interactions are positive. Reddit has a problem, but Reddit isn’t the problem.

By the way, the vocal minority of haters on Reddit is just that – a petition at Change.org to have CEO Ellen Pao ousted over this new policy has fewer than 10,000 signatures.

 

 

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