I regularly do Instagram stories and I often like to add in a little bit of ‘jazz’ by popping a GIF into the mix, this is a relatively new feature that Instagram added to stories. Imagine my surprise when I went to add one to my most recent IG Story only to find that the ‘GIF’ sticker had vanished… strange! I thought so, so I swiped left to my most recently used stickers, and what did I see? there was the GIF sticker in all its glory, I pressed on it, I typed in ‘vandal’ (it made sense in context) and nothing came up, in fact, whatever I typed in, nothing came up. Anyway, time is money, so I moved on and made my story sans GIFs.
It bothered me though, why? What had happend? Why would Instagram take away giphy (the GIF service that is actually integrated into Instagram – and Snapchat by all accounts, though I must confess, I’d never used it)? Luckily for me, I have access to the internet and used it to answer my question. Initially google pointed to a link to TechCrunch, but when I clicked on it, it just took me to the homepage, which, well, wasn’t what was wanted, and searching their site for ‘Instagram giphy’ didn’t yeild the results that required either, so I gave up with that route.
Next on the list, that bastion of tech knowledge, the Metro, I was starting to get bored and my interest was waning so I thought, if its a real thing and not just my app messing about, then I guess the Metro might know, and it turned out that it did. Apparently someone had managed to type in ‘Crime’ and been presented with a super offensive GIF. Not cool.
Obviously this is totally unacceptable, racism isn’t ok and if you think it is, just hop on the old alt-f4 key combo for me right now. That being said, is removing giphy is the right thing to do? I mean, they haven’t withdrawn the abiltiy to type on stories, and if someone is a racist and they want to make that fact known, then they could type something offensive, they could take a photo of something offensive, they could video themselves saying or doing something offensive and that apparently is ok with them? I don’t think that removing the facility to post GIF’s is the way forward, I can kind of see why they would be nervous about including content from a third party into their product that is offensive, but still, surely dealing with anyone who chooses to share offensive content on your platform rather than remove features is the route that they should be going, being notified of an offensive gif and then sending people who have used that gif a DM saying that your platform is not for distributing racist materials? I don’t know, its complex for sure.
Again, people being offensive, in any manner, not just racist, online, in real life or any mixture of the two, is not something I can accept and certainly don’t seek out that kind of thing, but I also think that people are so eager to force their morals on others through publicly shaming companies that this kind of knee jerk reaction is commonplace. I think shaming the people that posted the content, or even better, educating them to how wrong they are and making them feel ashamed of their own actions would be a better course of action than removing avenues of expression wholesale? Maybe I am just desensitised or something, I don’t think I need companies to stop me seeing something, I can see it and then make the assessment that I think the person who has put it there for me to see is a moron, or otherwise, based on what I see. I assume you could make a child protection argument, but I don’t think giphy is the full on wild west, generally speaking, I think that if something is on there, the worst that would happen is that you would have to have a conversation with your child about how some people in life are idiots… plus, don’t you have to be 13 and up to use Instagram anyway? I would assume a 13yr old should have been made aware that racism isn’t acceptable by then? I massively digress, because hopefully giphy and Instagram / Snapchat can work out a solution that works for everyone and prevents racist material from being available and gives us back the ability to add humorous panda GIFs to our stories asap.
So this is pretty heavy for my one of my first few posts on my site, do you have any thoughts about this? I’d love to hear about them, hit me up on twitter @charlesgreig and let me know.