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Is Instagram’s Abuse Moderation Lacking?

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

The birth of the Internet signalled a new era for humankind’s globalisation, with new and exciting ways for everyone to be connected no matter where we are physically.

Derek Ng De Ren

Derek Ng De Ren Credit: Kelvin Chng

Unfortunately, some would abuse it to bring harm to others, like Derek Ng De Ren, a 19-year-old Singaporean who sent death threats last year to a professional football player who happened to be on the other side of the globe.

According to the English Premier League’s (EPL) statement, Brighton & Hove Albion forward Neal Maupay, the victim, received “threatening and abusive messages” after scoring the winning goal in the match against Arsenal. Maupay then reported these messages to the League through its online abuse operating system for investigation.

The League also mentioned that its investigators believed that they were able to track the sender to Singapore. As a result, they filed an official police complaint with the Singapore Police Force, liaising with them and supporting all subsequent legal action on Maupay’s behalf.

“The Premier League takes online abuse seriously and is committed to supporting players, managers and their families who receive such messages,” the EPL stated.

Neal Maupay Brighton Getty Images

Neal Maupay, forward player for the Brighton & Hove Albion Credit: Getty Images

The charge sheets detailed that his death threats were not only focused on Maupay but also his family. “I will f*** you up.” and “You think by reporting my account you’re safe? I will kill you and your family.” are some of the messages Ng sent from 24 June 2020 to 1 July 2020.

The Straits Times reported that Ng intends to plead guilty to all charges on his return to court on 31 May 2021. The report also added that he could be fined up to S$5,000 and jailed for up to six months for each count of harassment.

The Mirror, a British publication, reported that the news came on the weekend that football authorities came together to boycott all forms of social media in protest of their lack of action to combat abuse on their platforms.

instagram report message button

Instagram’s “report message” button on its app can be found by press and holding your finger on the message. Credit: Instagram

Does this mean that Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, are lacking in their efforts to combat online harassment and abuse? Possibly.

Instagram has functions that allow people to keep themselves safe. However, most of them, such as the report button for inappropriate content and abusive messages, rely on the user to report these themselves. Instagram does have auto-moderation, but only for comments made on posts. However, signs of change might be on the horizon: the company released a blog post in February 2021 that addresses abuse in Direct Messages (DMs).

According to the post, Instagram admits that messages are harder to moderate than comments due to the former’s private nature. However, the company also stated that it will be taking “tougher action” when it is aware of people breaking their rules about DMs. These actions include preventing the person reported from sending messages for a period of time, disabling that person’s account for repeated offences as well as any new accounts created purely to send abusive messages and comments.


Written by John Paul Joaquin

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