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Friday, April 17, 2015

Instagram Tightens Guidelines to Curb Pornography and Harassment

Instagram is dropping the nice-guy act.
The photo- and video-sharing app Thursday unveiled more-detailed standards for images, aimed at curbing pornography and harassment. The tone is tougher, too: Instagram cut the number of times it says “please,” to one, from four.
“In the old guidelines, we would say ‘don’t be mean’,” said Nicky Jackson Colaco, director of public policy for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. “Now we’re actively saying you can’t harass people. The language is just stronger.”
For example, Instagram’s previous guidelines asked users to be polite and respectful. The revised version is much longer and specifies that “serious threats of harm to public and personal safely aren’t allowed.”
Ditto for nudity. Before, Instagram asked users to refrain from posting “nudity or mature content.” Now, the guidelines are more specific. Photos of post-mastectomy scarring or women breastfeeding are okay. Not okay: “Close-ups of fully nude buttocks”
The overhaul of Instagram’s community guidelines is the biggest since Facebook bought the app three years ago for $1 billion. Since then it has exploded to 300 million monthly users, from 30 million.
With that growth have come questions around how the site should police bullying and potentially offensive content. Instagram doesn’t screen images before posting, but reviews those that prompt complaints from users, and removes those that violate its guidelines.
Instagram says it fields hundreds of thousands of complaints each week.  Parents in many parts of the U.S. have raised concerns about cyber bullying of students, including writing mean comments on a photo or posting a picture with a mean caption.
Instagram’s global audience means executives have to find a balance among differing cultural norms around issues like nudity. In some places, nudity is accepted; in others, it is taboo.
“How do we establish a baseline around nudity when you have hundreds of millions of users?” Colaco said. “We need to create a standard that most people can live by.”
In some cases, critics complain that Instagram has overreached, and removed too many images. Earlier this year, photos posted by the artist Rupi Kaur depicting menstruation were removed twice before Instagram apologized and restored the photos. Colaco said the removals were a mistake.

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