In 2016, Taylor Swift was getting trolled by Calvin Harris fans, and Kim/Kanye fans. People kept posting snakes and writing “snake” on her Instagram, but there were no tools to help stop this. Kevin Systrom wanted to make a special feature for Taylor to be able to block certain keywords, but the engineering team pointed out that if it was done for one person, it should be done for all people. By the end of the year, the feature of “keyword blocking” had been implemented.
Sarah is a technology reporter who has been covering social media companies for nearly a decade. In her new book, “No Filter – the Inside story of Instagram” – she brings us behind the scenes of Instagram’s growth and cultural impact, to understand the decisions made internally and how that shapes our society and behavior.
For instance, one of Instagram’s strategies was to grow by catering to its most famous users, and giving them what they needed. Famous people are more likely to see problems sooner because they have a bigger group of fans they’re interacting with. For instance, in 2013, when Ariana Grande saw an issue with bullying on the app, she approached Kevin Systrom at a party to address it. Another time, Miley Cyrus threatened to quit Instagram because she didn’t like how transgender youth are treated on the platform, so the Instagram team goes to her house, sit in her dining room, and help Miley run a campaign on her account to give a voice to transgender individuals.
As users, we don’t recognize the power the platform has to help things bubble to the surface in our culture.
You can find Sarah and her excellent book on: