Instagram is the latest internet company to step up efforts to hide content from users, implementing an automatic blur feature for images it deems “offensive”.
The social network announced the incoming censorship feature on Wednesday, saying it will be rolled out imminently.
Instagram said the filter will first be used to obscure photos of shocking events of “humanitarian crises” like war and famine – and could be expanded to cover sexual material too.
Users will not be able to see the pictures as they scroll through their feeds and will have to tap them to reveal the unfiltered image.
Instagram is well-known for aggressively blocking images which break its content guidelines – especially female nipples – but will now use the blur on photos which are not against the rules but which might upset people anyway.
In a blog post entitled “Fostering a Safer, Kinder Community”, staff said:
Soon you may notice a screen over sensitive photos and videos when you scroll through your feed or visit a profile. While these posts don’t violate our guidelines, someone in the community has reported them and our review team has confirmed they are sensitive.
The announcement did not highlight any particular types of content likely to be caught by the new blur filter.
However, in an email exchange with The Verge, an Instagram spokesman said they will start with images of violence – such as newsworthy pictures of animal testing, war and famine:
Examples include animal rights groups that share content to expose animal testing conditions or animal abuse, or content that raises awareness of humanitarian crises around the world (famine, impact of war on local communities)
When asked about whether the ban could extend to sexual photos, the company ominously said they will “explore” expanding the blur to more content in future.
The implementation of harsher censorship for images echoes disastrous efforts by YouTube to expand its “restricted mode” content filter, which has outraged gamers, the LGBT community, and even Human Rights Watch.