“We’re not changing any of the policies,” Jackson Colaco said. But the company has “added in detail around questions we’ve gotten over and over, and into places where [users] needed more information,” she said.
Jackson Colaco said that no one incident triggered Instagram’s decision to rewrite its guidelines -- the firm, she said, has been working on this for over a year -- but that it has listened to users complaints and confusion in deciding how it wants to communicate its policies.
That’s similar to what Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, said about a guideline-rewrite it underwent several weeks ago. And many of the policies outlined in Instagram’s latest guidelines are the same as the one’s Facebook explained in its latest rewrite.
These include specific prohibitions against messages that “support or praise terrorism” an or hate groups, “serious threats of harm” to public or private safety and clear statements against abuse of all kinds. It also includes this passage, on abusive content:
“We remove content that contains credible threats or hate speech, content that targets private individuals to degrade or shame them, personal information meant to blackmail or harass someone, and repeated unwanted messages.”
The Instagram guidelines address other debates about content and behavior that come up across social media platforms. On the question of nudity -- questions sparked by reports that Facebook has, for example, taken down images of naked statues for nudity violations, Instagram says that nudity in general-- and pornography specifically -- is off-limits. But “photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed," the guidelines say, "Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”
Perhaps more than anything, the changes to the community guideline language reflect that Instagram -- which was acquired by Facebook three years ago -- is growing up. The company’s old guidelines was structured as a list of dos and don'ts, which sometimes boiled things down too much. (For example, the policy that dealt with abuse and harassment fell under Don’t #5: “Don’t be rude.”)
Those simpler rules might have worked when Instagram was smaller, Jackson Colaco said. But its growth has made it necessary for the company to share more about its policies.
“When we first created these guidelines, we were a small photo-sharing app,” she said. Now (or at least as of December) the service has at least 300 million active users.
Finding the right guidelines for a growing global community is a challenge that Instagram and other social media firms, which generally want to support freedom of expression but also want to make their platforms marketable to people around the globe.
“I view the world through my particular lens, but somebody in Western Europe may have a different view,” Jackson Colaco said. The same could be said of someone in the Middle East, she said, or in South Asia.
The latest version of Instagram’s guidelines are meant to act as the basic standards for behavior on the service, and admittedly strike some hard balances, she said.
“There’s a little bit of trade-off,” she said, in crafting baselines that everyone can live with and will continue to work as Instagram grows. And, Jackson Colaco added, the guidelines are an evolving document that will change as the service gets feedback from its users.
In the debate over what’s acceptable and what isn’t, she said there are definitely “shades of gray that we want to be aware of.”
And, Jackson Colaco added, the guidelines are an evolving document that will change as the service gets feedback from its users. “It’s our job to make the rules really transparent and explanations as simple as possible,” she said.