New 'Sensitive Content' Settings are Coming to Instagram
Normally if you hear 'Instagram' and 'censorship' in the same sentence it also contains the word 'mishandled', but refreshingly this time it's not a story about them taking down a photo of Michelangelo's David, or getting punked by legions of photoshop savvy women. No no, this time the images aren't being taken down, they're being blurred.

Any images or videos deemed 'sensitive' will now appear as a big blur until the user taps the post, indicating that they are indeed interested in whatever salacious content might be lurking on the other side. That makes sense, and it's certainly less controversial than removing the content entirely, but while the method may have changed, the fundamental issue remains the same: what counts as sensitive content?

You can roll off a few of the more obvious ones - nudity, drug use, nudity, violence, nudity, potentially disturbing or upsetting images, and nudity - but the issue has never been which types of images and videos are sensitive, but the ones within those categories that fall into a grey area. A photo of a naked man versus a statue of a naked man, for example.

It seems like what Instagram are really doing here is admitting to the fact that their systems will mistakenly flag content as inappropriate from time to time, but now it won't be taken down. It's them compromising. You can follow the logic; this is a far easier solution than taking their entire system of censorship back to the drawing board, but here's the kicker - content doesn't necessarily have to flout community guidelines to get blurred.


This new system works as much through user flagging as anything else. If somebody sees something which they deem to be sensitive, it gets turned over to an evaluation team, and they decide where or not it gets the sensitive stamp. Obviously if content really brazenly defies the community guidelines, it'll get removed, but anything shy of that will just get blurred out.

It's a smart move on Instagram's part, and it might well spare them a lot of future criticism for repeating old mistakes, but you never really know how a feature like this is going to play to the crowd until it's out and it's had a few months to settle. Loopholes are common, and exploitation of them often follows. Some users could find that all their images and videos are being flagged because the system is too loose, and one of their followers has decided to make life difficult for them, for example. We'll just have to wait and see.

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