Instagram Will Blur Out Nudes in DMs to Fight ‘Financial Sextortion’

Instagram Will Blur Out Nudes in DMs to Fight ‘Financial Sextortion’

Meta on Thursday announced a new tool for Instagram direct messages to protect kids and teens from predators trying to elicit nudes and “sextort” them.

“Financial sextortion” happens when online scammers ask people for nude photos and then threaten to release those photos unless they’re paid a sum of money. According to the FBI, victims are usually teenage boys between 14 and 17. The agency said there’s been an“alarming number of suicides identified in male victims” of financially motivated sextortion.

Meta already reports sextortion after it happens and removes perpetrators’ accounts. But its new tool takes steps to prevent intimate image abuse from happening in the first place. The company said it’s deploying technology to identify users who could be engaged in sextortion. Instagram DMs will soon have a “nudity protection” feature that automatically blurs nudes sent and received by teens under 18, giving those users the option to unsend their own intimate pictures and to decide whether or not they want to see a nude photo sent to them.

“Companies have a responsibility to ensure the protection of minors who use their platforms. Meta’s proposed device-side safety measures within its encrypted environment is encouraging. We are hopeful these new measures will increase reporting by minors and curb the circulation of online child exploitation.” –John Shehan, Senior Vice President of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Meta’s Apr. 11 announcement

Meta has launched several initiatives so far this year in an effort to protect teens and kids from sexual predators after damning reports about rampant child trafficking on its platforms. Meta was also heavily critiqued in late 2023 over its use of encryption technology for Facebook and Instagram DMs — something insiders said helped predators, not victims. Now, Meta’s announcing new safety features that hide “age-inappropriate content” and limit the ability for teens to receive messages from adults they don’t know.

Teens’ vulnerability when it comes to harms associated with social media — over-sexualization, bullying, sextortion — has come under intense scrutiny from regulators in recent years. And in late March, Florida passed a law outright banning the use of social media platforms for kids under 14.

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