Instagram boss Adam Mosseri: ‘We can’t solve bullying on our own’

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Media captionInstagram boss Adam Mosseri on bullying, self-harm and time limits on the app

Instagram “can’t solve bullying on its own”, the social media company’s boss Adam Mosseri says.

He’s told Radio 1 Newsbeat that online bullying needs to be tackled as part of a wider plan.

Mr Mosseri says he doesn’t want people to “get depressed” on the platform, but “we can’t stop people from saying nasty things”.

He says the criticism Instagram gets is “healthy” as this can help it tackle problems happening online.

As well as bullying, Adam Mosseri also spoke about Selena Gomez’s recent comments on how Instagram made her feel depressed, how the platform deals with content like self-harm and nudity, the criticism the app receives and how Instagram is regulating itself.

Bullying: ‘It’s broader than just Instagram’

“Bullying has existed for a long time, it has changed and evolved with the internet,” Adam Mosseri says.

“Like many other issues, bullying is broader than just Instagram and I think that sometimes gets missed.”

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Adam Mosseri tells Radio 1 Newsbeat Instagram was “too slow” getting to a place where they could identify negative content in the app

Regulation: ‘We’re happy to take responsibility’

Earlier this year he met government ministers to discuss safety and security on Instagram.

They introduced tough new rules on social media companies – saying that if they didn’t take responsibility for what appears on their platforms, they’d face heavy fines.

Adam Mosseri says Instagram welcomes the idea of taking more responsibility – and the most important area where it needs to tighten up is its integrity around elections and the spread of fake news.

“I think regulation overall is needed,” he says.

Criticism: ‘It’s not comfortable to have our mistakes aired in public’

And the Instagram boss – who’s been in his job since October – says this level of scrutiny “makes sense” for a company like Instagram.

“Sometimes it’s not comfortable for us to be criticised and to have our mistakes aired in public but I think fundamentally it is a healthy dynamic,” he says.

“Research – whether it’s coming from academics, regulators, politicians – we think it’s fundamentally a good thing.”

He says when issues are raised, Instagram will try to address them quickly.

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Media captionAfter Molly Russell took her own life, her family discovered distressing material about suicide on her Instagram account

Self-harm: ‘Images with thousands of views will be removed faster’

This year, Instagram has also been criticised for images of self-harm that appear on the platform, and Adam says the more views a problematic post is receiving, the higher priority it will be to remove.

“Not every piece of problematic content has the same risk,” he says.

“So a piece of content talking about self-harm might be much more important to reach quickly than a piece of content that might just be nudity.”

That means if a dangerous post has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, it will be dealt with or removed faster than something that’s only been seen by a handful of people, Adam claims.

Selena: ‘She has over 100m followers, it’s a whole other world’

More recently, Instagram has come under criticism from Selena Gomez, one of the most followed people in the world.

“It would make me feel not good about myself, and look at my body differently,” Selena said in a recent interview with US radio host Ryan Seacrest.

Selena said she had deleted Insta from her phone.

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“It’s really unhealthy for young people, including myself, to spend all of their time fixating on all of these comments,” said Selena

Mr Mosseri says hearing this left him feeling “disappointed” but says that what Selena Gomez experiences on Instagram can’t be compared to what the average user might have.

“She has over 100m followers, it’s a whole other world.”

He says Instagram is working to make sure that Selena – and everyone else using Instagram – has a positive experience using the app.

“We need to make sure that creators like her are getting value out of the platform, that they don’t get depressed by the platform,” he says.

“But the tools that we need to develop for a 15-year-old boy or 14-year-old girl are very different.”

These tools include plans to make Instagram likes private so there is less competition between users to get more reactions to what they post.

Instagram also says it will introduce new ways to block or report a bully without escalating the situation in real life and also a function that lets people know if something they are about to post is likely to upset others.

App use: ‘There’s a limit on doing anything’

Adam Mosseri says that in the nine years since Instagram launched, the company has learned about the positives and negatives of connecting millions of people online.

“There’s lots of good that comes out of connecting people. When we started we were very focused on that good and I still believe in that,” he says.

“We were under-focused on the downsides of connecting people. Technology is not good or bad – it just is.

“Social media specifically is a great amplifier of the good and bad and so we need to try and do more and identify the bad.”

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“We generally want Instagram to be less of a pressurised environment, we don’t want people to compete,” says Adam Mosseri

He says he would like to speak directly with Selena Gomez about how she would like Instagram improved.

“I would love to hear from her,” he says.

“If there’s something specific that she thinks is working or not working about the platform, I’d love to hear.

“We like the criticism, we like to have the conversation.”

And he admits that Instagram, like most things, should only be used in moderation.

“I think there’s a limit for how much time you should do anything, it doesn’t matter if it’s TV, Instagram or exercise,” he says.

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