Instagram needs help

UPDATE: Within a few days of publication of this briefing all three accounts listed below had been closed by Instagram

Instagram has been growing rapidly since its launched in October 2010. By late 2014 the number of active monthly users on Instagram surpassed the number of active monthly users on Twitter. Instagram has largely been given a free pass when it comes to online hate. They have not been monitored to the same level by experts as the tools and research focus into online hate was largely set in motion before Instagram became a major platform. This will be changing in 2020.

This briefing has three parts:

  • A major focus on Instagram for 2020 – We discuss the need for a greater focus on hate speech on Instagram and how we will be acting to meet that need
  • Examples of the Problem – Across three accounts we show examples of antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and the promotion of domestic violence
  • Reporting on Instagram – A step by step walk through for reporting hate speech and content promoting violence

Help us stop online hate by reporting the content linked to in this briefing. We are a registered Harm Prevention Charity in Australia and our work is made possible by public donations – by making a donation (tax deductible in Australia) you can help us to do more to tackle online hate. If you aren’t ready doing so, you can also join our Facebook page.

You can comment or tell us when you’ve taken action via this Facebook thread. You can also click share on the Facebook thread, or tag others in your comments, to help spread the word so more people can take action.

A major focus on Instagram for 2020

Instagram hit one billion active monthly users in June 2018. Since then the official statistics from the company simply say “1B+ Monthly Actives”. Our estimate, based on past growth, is that Instagram either has or will shortly pass the 1.5 Billion active user mark. For comparison, Facebook was at 2.45 Billion active monthly users as at September 20, 2019.

Instagram Growth. Graph by OHPI based on data from TechCrunch.

In late 2019 Instagram made a number of positive announcements about changes designed to tackle toxic online behaviour. We welcome these efforts, but we note that Instagram remains a far more permissive environment for online hate than many other platforms. It takes far more for an account to be suspended and there is little preventing suspended accounts from returning under a new name.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute will be adding an additional focus on Instagram to our work through 2020. Our approach is to document and shine a light on hate speech such as antisemitism and Holocaust denial, racism and xenophobia, racism against Indigenous Australians, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, cyberbullying, serious trolling and others. We encourage the public to report hate speech to the platform concerned, as well as reporting it to us so we can monitor how the platforms respond.

We also work directly with the platforms. With most companies we maintain a number of direct contacts, both in Australia and at their headquarters, which we use to:

  • Notify them of particularly dangerous content that needs immediate attention
  • Providing them with drafts of major reports that cover their platform so they have the option of taking positive action before these reports are released
  • Suggesting ways they could improve their technology, policies or approach
  • Consult with them on certain public policy work

We will reach out to Instagram and offer to work with them, as we do with others, as we introduce this new focus. Staff at Instagram wanting to work with us or help connect us with people are welcome to contact us.

Examples of the Problem

Account: Nordic Gamer(s)

This account (click here to see and report it) seeks to bring the sort of hate speech we have documented on 4chan into Instagram. In a new report released last month we looked at this toxic culture in detail including how a sub-culture based in this hate led to 4 deadly terrorist attacks in 2019.

Like 4chan itself this account is posting antisemitic content. The example below refers to television as the “electric Jew” and the messages on the image promote an antisemitic conspiracy theory promoted by white nationalists. The conspiracy theory, known as the white genocide conspiracy theory, claims the “white race” is under threat from a plot by Jews to destroy it through promoting “race mixing”. The belief in this conspiracy theory was expressed in the terrorist manifesto released prior to the deadly attack in Halle (Germany) in October 2019.

Another post shows a lamp with the antisemitic meme of the Jew on it. This related to claims the Nazis made lampshades from the skin of Jews they killed. The use of the antisemitic meme of the Jew is enough for this to be classed as an antisemitic image. The use of the lampshade could be seen as glorifying the Holocaust and the murder of Jews.

The third example’s message is pro-Nazi ideology. It is racist, speaking of “mulattos” (a derogatory terms for children of couples with different skin colours) as well as transphobic.

We note that this account was previously banned under the name “nordicgamer” but was immediate replaced with a new account “nordicgamers” (with an added s). The same profile picture is used and it seems clear it is operated by the same person. This suggests Instagram’s ban of this account was ineffective. This new account should be closed on the basis of the previous decision to ban this user and the fact this account only exists to undermine Instagram’s safety policies.

Account: Fascist Action

This account (click here to see and report it) explicitly says it is a fascist account and that it is against “Israel/Zionist” (by which it really means Jews), LGBTQ, Capitalism and Marxism.

The account only has a few images, but they include one (click here to see and then report it) suggesting religious coexistence should be put to the sword.

Another post (click here to see and then report it) juxtaposes “old school” 1940s style photos presented as showing “traditional values” with a pictures of Muslims, people of colour, and the gay community designed to present them as a “threat to our way of life” (as the hate narrative goes). The next over this image reads “Stop pretending everything’s ok”.

Account: gang_domestic_abuse_on_ig

This account promotes misogyny and domestic violence (click here to see and report it).

The first example is an edited version of a NSW Government campaign against domestic violence which has been converted into a meme promoting domestic violence. (Click here to see and report the image).

Other memes on the page also send a positive message for people to engage in domestic violence.

Reporting on Instagram

Reporting Hate Speech

Step 1: Use the “…” in the top right of the post

Step 2: Select “Report Inappropriate”

Step 3: Select “It’s inappropriate”

Step 4: Select “Hate speech or symbol”

Step 5: Click “Submit Report”

Step 6: Click “Close”

Reporting Violence

Step 1: Use the “…” in the top right of the post

Step 2: Select “Report Inappropriate”

Step 3: Select “It’s inappropriate”

Step 4: Select “Violence or dangerous organization”

Step 5: Click “Submit Report”

Step 6: Click “Close”