Instagram, which has quickly become the rock star of the social-media landscape, added to its list of features this month. In an interview with Time, Adam Mosseri (CEO of Instagram) announced updates to the platform's anti-bullying policy.
With new the AI-powered features, users will be notified if they're about to post a comment that could be deemed offensive to the person who published the content. Additionally, Mosseri also talked about the upcoming release of "Restrict," a feature that will enable users to hide specific user's comments without the person who's commenting being notified of the ban.
This comes after Mosseri has already pushed for users to hide like counts on Instagram in an attempt to make the platform a safer, lower-stakes environment for patrons -- which has drawn mixed responses, to say the least.
While the intention behind this update is certainly well and good, moves like this by social-media giants could have dire consequences for entrepreneurs down the road, as they are symptomatic of a larger trend of selective censorship in social media.
Here's what to expect, and what you can do so your business can succeed amid the changes.
What to expect.
I'll start off by saying this: if your brand is publishing truly offensive content, then you shouldn't be. Plain and simple.
While it's great to see platforms taking strides to fight online bullying, which is an enormous issue, the potential problem lies in how they're doing it. These social-media networks are now deciding what content users should and shouldn't be exposed to, becoming more and more like media or publishing companies, as opposed to neutral platforms where ideas are shared and businesses of all kinds are discovered . It's making it a game of roulette as to whether or not your own company will be affected by the changes.
For instance, if you own a local boxing studio, who knows whether or not Instagram will eventually deem your content offensive given its inherent violence? The same goes if you own an online sexual wellness shop, or a cigar store.
With the current trajectory of Silicon Valley, if your marketing content doesn't align perfectly with the values of the decision makers, you could be out of luck. As someone who grew up in a rural town of 1,100 in Ohio and eventually found myself in the Bay Area for six years, I'll be the first to tell you the lifestyle and values in San Francisco don't mirror that of the rest of the country, as is the case for any particular area.
All that said, do I think this particular Instagram update is a cause for alarm? No. In fact, I like that Instagram is trying to curb online bullying. But censorship is a slippery slope, one that could affect a large number of business owners.
What you can do about it.
1. Focus on building your own email list and website.
Whatever you do, don't become reliant on any one platform. It will eventually come back to haunt you. Platforms are created spontaneously and die unexpectedly. They can change their algorithms without warning, and they can decide if your content doesn't align with their ethics.
Instead, use these platforms as "pollinators," or springboards to drive traffic and awareness for your own website and email list.
2. Be present on platforms other than Instagram and Facebook.
Remember, Instagram is owned by Facebook -- and for all their incredible features, they have some big shortcomings. From their recent privacy concerns, which have dampened user trust, to their seemingly constant slashing of organic reach, Facebook is experiencing bumps in the road. Instagram, now operated by Facebook loyalists in high positions after the departure of Instagram's original founders, is at risk of going down the same path.
To combat this, give platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn more attention and budget this year. Toy around with their advertising platforms to see what works best for your company. To streamline content creation, you can always use tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or Agorapulse to schedule content in advance.
3. Speak out.
Lastly, you can also fight back. If your content gets censored or reported and you don't believe it should have been, appeal it. Contact Instagram and make your case as to why you believe your content shouldn't have been deemed offensive to your audience.
If this doesn't work, take your story to local reporters and news outlets for potential coverage. Remember, these are huge corporations with quarterly quotas they need to hit to satisfy their shareholders, so public opinion is extremely important to them.