SAN FRANCISCO: Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app, is cracking down on abusive and offensive comments posted online in a move that aims to make the platform a "safe place for self-expression".

The company announced last week that it has launched a new tool, based on machine learning, that automatically blocks toxic comments on posts and live video.

In effect, the algorithm will stop offensive comments from getting through to users before they even see them and means users no longer need to report abuse to moderators after the event.

"Many of you have told us that toxic comments discourage you from enjoying Instagram and expressing yourself freely. To help, we’ve developed a filter that will block certain offensive comments on posts and in live video," said Kevin Systrom, CEO and Co-founder of Instagram, in a company blog post.

"All other comments will appear as they normally do and you can still report comments, delete comments or turn them off. Also, you can always turn this filter off," he added.

Systrom explained that this comment filter will be rolled out in English first of all, but will be offered in more languages as its capabilities improve over time.

He also drew attention to a second feature, which will monitor Instagram posts and live videos for any "obvious spam" that also will be blocked.

This anti-spam tool is expected to improve over time, but is already capable of tackling spam in nine languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, French, German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese.

"Powered by machine learning, today's filters are our latest tools to keep Instagram a safe place. Our team has been training our systems for some time to recognize certain types of offensive and spammy comments so you never have to see them," Systrom said.

"We believe that using machine learning to build tools to safeguard self-expression is an important step in fostering more inclusive, kinder communities," he added. "Our work is far from finished and perfect, but I hope we're helping you feel safer and more welcome on Instagram."

Data sourced from Instagram; additional content by WARC staff