For Instagram users like myself, today is a day of mixed blessings. Thanks to new features announced this morning, we can finally have private conversations in the app, but Instagram is also adding the ability for anyone to send you private photos. Anyone.
Like Facebook, Instagram Direct essentially routes private messages (which must include photos or videos) into two folders: One for people you're following and one for "Pending Requests" from people you're not following. And like Facebook's "Other" inbox, a horrifying den of iniquity in which angels fear to tread, the Pending Requests folder seems almost destined to become awash in spam and penis-sharing creepers.
Or as my writer friend Curtis Silver described it:
Instagram direct! Dick pics with filters!
— Curtis Silver (@cebsilver) December 12, 2013
A few other observations from Twitter after today's announcement:
I foresee Instagram Direct being filled with spam and brands advertising directly.— Tejash Patel (@tejashpatel_) December 12, 2013
Instagram Direct ey? I have a feeling there will be a lot of strippers & "models" getn spammed w/ inappropriate pics of guys genitals. Lol— the Perceptive (@Arteest1) December 12, 2013
Instagram Nudes Are Here #instagramdirect
— ▲LegendaryArt▲ (@LegendaryDEV) December 12, 2013
Instagram just made sending nudes 10x easier.
— Guala (@Ohmypreciosa_) December 12, 2013
Sure, spam and perverts can already be found in droves on Instagram, but their ability to really bother users has essentially been limited to posting comments on your images. Now they'll be able to send you images directly, and if they limit their prurient activity to private messages, they might be harder for Instagram to find and purge.
Here's the extent of what Instagram has shared so far on this issue in its initial FAQ about Instagram Direct:
Can I use Instagram Direct to send posts to people I’m not following?
Yes, you can send a photo or video to anyone when you use Instagram Direct. If you send a post to someone who doesn’t follow you, your post will go to their requests queue. If someone accepts your request, your post will go to their direct posts the next time you share directly with them. Posts that stay in the requests queue may become unavailable.
How do I report a post that was sent to me or block someone from sending posts to me?
You can report abusive posts that are sent to you. If you don't want someone to send a post to you, you can ignore their post in your direct posts by tapping x or you can block that person.
Key safety tips for Instagram Direct
Ignore people you don’t want to hear from. If you want to ignore all messages from someone you follow, you can always tap the ". . ." in your direct posts and select the option to Ignore All from that person.
Block people that bother you. If someone bothers you through messages or anywhere else on Instagram, use our blocking function so that that person can't view your photos/videos or search for your Instagram account. People aren't notified when you block them.
Report problematic content. You can report content that may be in violation of our policies directly from Instagram app, with our built-in reporting feature.
So obviously Instagram is prepared for an influx of unsavory messages, but it still seems the service is missing an option for those who don't want to be subjected to requests from any random person or bot. Or at the very least, the service could separate the "friend request" aspect from the image sharing itself, allowing you to scan your Pending Requests inbox in a public place
without fear of your screen being filled with snapshots of "single ladies" and some dude's junk. UPDATE: The "Pending" queue only shows you a thumbnail of the user's profile photo, not of the photo he or she is trying to send you. So, for better or worse, you won't see what content the person is trying to send you until you accept their messages. You'll also see the user's Instagram ID and full name, which hopefully will give you enough context to decide whether to allow them into your inbox. In the Pending list, you can click a green check to allow direct messages from the user or click a red X to decline.
Once you allow messages from a user, you can later choose to "hide" their message, block the user, "ignore all posts from this user" or "report inappropriate." Here's a screenshot of your reporting options for inappropriate content:
For more details, be sure to check out Adweek's coverage of the Instagram Direct's features and the brand's video announcement below: