Instagram announced a new machine learning algorithm today that can look for offensive keywords and block them. If you use the app, you know trolling is often a quick way to ruin your day when someone calls you a name or makes a racial slur. What I like about this new tech, likely developed at Facebook (which owns Instagram), is that it is not reactive but proactive. The comment will never appear in your feed; you'll never see it.

On Twitter? Not so much.

I'm still strongly supportive of Twitter as a service, but strongly against how they have dealt with online abuse--it's mostly an afterthought. Of the dozens and dozens of young adults I've talked to over the past few months about how they use social media, a vast majority have abandoned Twitter because it is a bastion for trolls.

Now, with the new tech on Instagram, they'll feed safer and more assured when they post photos and make comments.

The machine learning also detects spammy comments, which are basically things people say and post that are all about self-promotion or some type of scam. (Or they are generated by spambots automatically.)

You might wonder what's been happening in social media to make Instagram the preferred platform. Don't blame President Trump too quickly. Instagram has 700 million users, Twitter only has 300 million or so. One big reason is that the younger demographic has grown up with email and texting, so they want something more visual.

These are the folks who like to post stickers and GIF animations because, really, text is pretty boring. I won't say I've become a big Instagram user (I'm not in the right demographic, and my goals with social media are almost all professionally motivated) but I follow a lot of Instagram feeds generated by friends and family.

Twitter--which I do use on a daily basis--has failed to capitalize on latest social media trends, including using AI to block and remove content. Most of the tech they use will flag content or alert you, but whatever they're doing isn't working. I still see many multiple comments on Twitter, some in my own feed, that are offensive. Hate speech is alive and well on Twitter, and Instagram has done a better job keeping things more sanctimonious--or maybe the users are more inclined to maintain civility.

The Instagram app is also easier to use. It's meant to be bone-dead simple for adding photos or snapping them with your phone, adding a filter, and inserting a comment. There are fewer restrictions in what you say and how many words you use. A team I know has posted long posts with multiple hashtags, links, emojis, and much more in a single post. A combination of flexibility, ease-of-use, and civility have made Instagram a bigger platform than Twitter. Meanwhile, many people see Twitter as a dying art-form.

What will finally end the war? I'm not expecting President Trump to switch, but it's obvious that everyday users prefer Instagram and don't really like Twitter anymore. As with any computing technology, when the everyday users pick something, the war is over.

Published on: Jun 30, 2017