Instagram gives its users a little more power to see what they want – and not to see what they want not want – in its content discovery hub. The company introduced a new toggle on Tuesday called “Sensitive Content Control” that allows anyone to filter out posts it deems likely to be offensive, hiding them from the Explore tab.
The new feature appears in the settings menu and allows users to choose to either allow more content that might be “compelling or offensive”, limit that content, or “limit even more.” The wording is a little odd, but it acknowledges that the company’s moderation efforts aren’t perfect, and that’s at least realistic.
“You can think of sensitive content as posts that don’t necessarily break our rules, but could potentially upset some people – such as posts that may be sexually suggestive or violent,” Instagram explained in the ad.
TechCrunch has asked the company to clarify what types of posts are filtered out in each category and whether human or algorithmic moderation determines what is sensitive, but has not received a response.
We also asked if the company is considering creating separate seesaws for violence and sexual content, given that many people comfortable with the latter might be less inclined to see violence erupt among makeup tutorials and the app’s influencer junkets.
On Instagram, “sensitive” content is a huge catch-all category for things it allows but doesn’t want to be seen as direct promotion. In its own guidelines for what content it recommends, Instagram states that sexually suggestive content such as “photos of people wearing see-through clothing” are not eligible for the Explore tab. Instagram’s definition of sensitive content also includes dangerous forms of content like “exaggerated health claims” and posts promoting weight loss supplements.
Instagram is known for its oversight of what the platform considers sexual content. A campaign by black plus-size model Nyome Nicholas-Williams managed to pressure the platform to relax one of its overly restrictive nudity rules last year.
Instagram has contextualized the new content controls as part of a new effort to give users more power to determine what shows up in their feed. “We believe people should be able to turn Instagram into the experience they want,” the company wrote in a blog post, noting that recent changes like the ability to disable comments also give users more choices.
While the company gives users more control over its algorithm in some ways, it is also considering giving them less. Last month, Instagram began testing algorithmic suggestions mixed with the main feed, a design choice that would allow the company to inject even more of what it wants you to see into the platform.