Blocking someone on social media means that the blocked party can no longer see the blocker’s profile or posts. But blocking also means the blocker also can’t see what’s being posted about them. Obviously, this situation is not ideal for cases of online bullying or other forms of harassment.
To solve the issues around blocking blindness, Instagram is introducing a feature, called “Restrict,” that will allow users to limit the actions of other users on their profiles:
“Instagram says Restrict addresses these concerns by taking a more nuanced approach. If someone is bullying you on the platform — posting mean comments on your photos or sending you offensive messages — the new feature allows you to restrict the person’s actions.
Once you’ve restricted a user, comments on your posts from that person require your approval. You can see the comment and so can the bully, but unless you choose to release it, no one else can.”
According to NPR, the new feature is born of Instagram head Adam Mosseri’s interviews with teenagers who report being the victims of bullies on the platform. The move is intended to give the victims more control:
“‘You need, as a target of bullying, to see what the actor is actually doing,’ Mosseri said. ‘[Restrict] gives a target of bullying a bit more power over the experience.’”
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While the current blocking system simply prevents blocked users from sending private messages, restricting them will create a separate inbox that users can choose to view or not view. Messages from restricted users will not be marked read.
Initial tests of the new system over the summer found that restricting abusive comments greatly reduced their number. However, in the tests, most of the restricted were people users knew in real life, off the platform. It remains to be seen what this will do for users who get creepy, unsolicited messages from strangers.