Report: New Instagram Tools Tackle Self-Harm

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Instagram is largely home to images of weekend brunch, dressed-up pets, and #nofilter sunsets, but for some, the platform can turn into a serious cry for help. As a result, the social network is reportedly rolling out new tools that let people anonymously flag troubling photos.

According to Seventeen magazine, each report prompts an in-app message from Instagram to the user in need: "Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we'd like to help."

That person can then opt to "see support resources"—tips and access to a help line—or ignore the message.

Those same support resources, meanwhile, will appear to anyone searching for a hashtag related to self-harm—for instance, #imnotok. Other unhealthy tags, like #thinspo (often used to promote anorexia), are banned from the site altogether.

"We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don't know how best to reach out," Instagram COO Marne Levine told Seventeen.

Working with experts at the National Eating Disorders Association and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as well as real people with real experiences, the social network was able to develop the right language to reach users.

"These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder," Levine said.

Instagram did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.

Over the summer, Instagram began prepping a content-specific filtering feature, which allows users to blacklist words, phrases, and emoji they don't care for. Then, if someone tries commenting on a picture with those banned terms, they'll be unable to do so. The anti-harassment function, if rolled out to the public, could be used by those trying to avoid self-harm or suicidal trigger words.

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