Instagram to ban accounts that send racist abuse following targeting of footballers

·2-min read

Instagram has announced it will begin banning people who send racist abuse to others through direct messages (DMs) following complaints the company was not doing enough with its previous tactic of enforcing a time-out.

Among recent targets of online racist abuse is Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, who decided not to share screenshots of the messages "as it would be irresponsible to do so", but described the messages as "humanity and social media at its worst".

"Yes, I'm a black man and I live every day proud that I am. No one, or no one comment, is going to make me feel any different. So sorry if you were looking for a strong reaction, you're just simply not going to get it here," Rashford added.

At the time Facebook, which owns Instagram, removed the offending account but admitted there was "more to do" to defeat racism in posts and comments.

The announcement follows racist abuse targeted at Chelsea defender Reece James, West Brom's Romaine Sawyers and fellow Manchester United duo Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial, prompting the FA to reiterate its commitment to clamping down on discrimination of all kinds.

In a statement on Wednesday, Instagram acknowledged "racist online abuse targeted at footballers in the UK" and said: "We don't want this behaviour on Instagram."

"The abuse we're seeing is happening a lot in people's Direct Messages (DMs), which is harder to address than comments on Instagram," the company said.

It added that the private conversations in DMs aren't monitored by the same technologies used to proactively detect content like hate speech or bullying elsewhere.

"But there are still more steps we can take to help prevent this type of behaviour. So today we're announcing some new measures, including removing the accounts of people who send abusive messages, and developing new controls to help reduce the abuse people see in their DMs."

Instagram added that it will respond to valid legal requests for information from police in cases of racist abuse, but would "push back if they're too broad, inconsistent with human rights, or not legally valid".