Instagram Unveils New Measures to Protect Teens from Online Exploitation


As the digital age continues to boom, social media giant Instagram has announced that it is readying additional tools to defend underage users. This decision comes with a renewed focus on battling the grim occurrence of sexual blackmail and the refining of image-monitoring technology which promises to blur indecency in direct messages.

In its bid to curb image exploitation and render it more challenging for potential predators to establish contact with teens, Facebook’s younger sibling looks to experiment with these new freedoms. A malevolent practice known as sextortion often involves persuading an individual into sharing inappropriate images online, with threats of publicising these photos made unless demands for money, or worse, are met.

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Recent cases that have been brought to light include two brothers from Nigeria guilty of sexually exploiting teenage boys and young men in Michigan. One of whom tragically ended his life. Another incident includes a Virginian sheriff’s deputy who manipulated and abducted a 15-year-old girl.

Instagram, along with other prominent players in the realm of social media, has often been under scrutiny for its supposed lack of preventive action against such gross misconduct. Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg, the man behind Meta Platforms, who owns Instagram, publically apologized to the grieving parents of sextortion victims during a Senate hearing.

Their Silicon Valley based parent company, Meta, which also harbors Facebook and Whatsapp under its technological umbrella, has no plans of introducing these image-blurring features on its other platforms.

Sextortionists frequently take advantage of direct messaging features to solicit compromising images, and to counteract this, Instagram is preparing to commence trials on its nudity-detection technology. This feature will blur any messages with accompanying nudity and prompt users to think twice before venturing into sharing explicit images.

This automatic safeguard is created to shield users from undesired nudity in the DMs and also against swindlers who trade explicit images to trick users.

For the under-18 crowd, the feature will auto-enable itself globally. Adult users, however, will be given the option to turn it on themselves. Images containing nudity will be blurred outright, with the user retaining the choice to unblur if they so desire. Users will also be presented with the options to block the sender and to report the inappropriate exchange.

Those who send explicit pictures will be met with cautionary notes reminding them of the sensitive nature of their actions. They will also be informed about the option to unsend the photos in question but will be reminded that the recipient may have already viewed them.

Furthermore, Instagram is exploring means to identify accounts that attempt sexual extortion scams. Actions taken towards this end include hiding the ‘message’ button on a teenager’s profile from suspected sextortion accounts and experimenting with further strategies to shield teens from these harmful accounts.

While these steps are hailed as positive movement by critics, some feel that Instagram’s actions are still inadequate.

Historically, President Joe Biden has never shied away from expressing his belief that social media entities must do more to eradicate online sexual exploitation.

Recently, the FBI issued a warning about a significant rise in sextortion cases predominantly aimed towards boys between 14 to 17 years old. From October 2022 to March 2023 alone, there was a 20% spike in sextortion cases involving young victims. High tech companies such as Instagram cannot afford to ignore such alarming numbers and must continue to take responsibility in creating safer online spaces for youngsters.