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Here’s the deal with Instagram’s new sensitive content filter — and how to change it

Instagram has always had rules around nudity, for example, weeding out some images of female breasts unless they’re under certain circumstances, such as breastfeeding pics or mastectomy scars. But some eagle-eyed users recently noticed that the social media giant is automatically censoring out more content than you may want.

This week, Instagram released a Sensitive Content Control option that enables users to decide the content that appears in their Explore feed. The default setting, “limit” says users may see “some photos or videos that could be upsetting or offensive.” The other settings include “allow” (which lets the highest amount of potentially offensive content come through) and “limit even more” (which allows the least). Though broad, it could mean that some messages about sexual health, drug-related content, and serious news events could be filtered out from your Explore feed.

“We recognise that everybody has different preferences for what they want to see in Explore, and this control will give people more choice over what they see,” said Facebook, which acquired Instagram in 2012, in a statement. That’s right — this shouldn’t be affecting your main feed and the accounts you’ve elected to follow, but rather just what’s showing up on your Explore tab.

Still, not super thrilled about being unable to see all that Instagram has to offer? Here’s why your content is being censored and how to disable the setting, should you so choose.

Why Did Instagram Roll Out Sensitive Content Control?

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, broke it all down in a post shared Wednesday, July 21, on his personal account. “The photos and videos to see in the Explore tab are there not because you follow the account that posted them, but rather because we think you might be interested in them,” he wrote. Instagram employees “feel [they] have a responsibility to be careful to not recommend anything that might be sensitive,” Mosseri said in Wednesday’s post, adding, “we have a responsibility to do what we can to keep people safe, but we’d like the balance that with more transparency and more choice.”

As a result, he said, the company created a Sensitive Content Control option that allows you to decide how much you’d like Instagram to try to filter out certain content. Mosseri specifically listed off sexually suggestive, firearms, and drug-related content as examples.

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A post shared by Adam Mosseri (@mosseri)

FWIW, Instagram says online that posts that violate the platform’s community guidelines will still be removed as usual.

“This is really about providing people with more tools to customise their experience,” Riki Wane, Instagram’s policy communications manager, tells Shape. “In some ways, it gives people more control and more say in what they want to see.”

Why People Are Upset About the Sensitive Content Control Option

Several people on Instagram, including artist Phillip Miner, have raised concerns that people are missing out on certain content due to this filter.

“Instagram made it harder for you to see or share work that explores content that Instagram deems ‘inappropriate,'” wrote Miner in a multi-slide Instagram post shared Wednesday, July 21. “This not only affects the artists and entertainers who need Instagram to survive, it also affects your overall Instagram experience,” he added in the post’s final slide.


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A post shared by Phillip Miner (@phillip.miner)

Miner did a follow-up post on Thursday, July 22, stating he had “many conversations with artists and other creators who are incredibly frustrated by having their work hidden.” He added, “conversely, people are frustrated that they can’t find the content they want to see.”

Some sex content — including educational or artistic content — may also get caught up in the filter, simply because Instagram’s algorithm can’t necessarily parse out what’s educational and what’s not. In general, Wane says that “sexual education content is absolutely fine,” because it abides by the company’s guidelines. “If you left the default option on, you would still continue to see sexual education content there,” she says. “But if you want to engage with a lot of creators who post about sexual education and you remove the default option, there is a high potential to see even more.”

The filter is more about “things that are a little more on the fringe that some people may find sensitive,” says Wane.

By the way, if you remove the sensitive content control and decide you’re not feeling what you’re seeing, Wane points out that you can always select it again.

How to Change Your Sensitive Content Control Settings

Instagram’s Sensitive Content Filter may not be available to all users yet, according to The Verge. However, should you want to change your settings on Instagram, here’s how:

  1. First, on your profile page, click on the three horizontal bars in the upper-righthand corner.
  2. Next, select “settings” then click on “account.”
  3. Finally, scroll down to the label “sensitive content control.” You’ll next be presented a page with three prompts, “allow,” “limit (default),” and “limit even more.” Upon selecting “allow,” you will be asked, “allow sensitive content?” to which you can press “ok.”

The “allow” option, however, will not be available to people under the age of 18, according to Facebook.

This story first appeared on www.shape.com

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Getty Images)

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