If like me you love Instagram, you've probably encountered one of its less lovable phenomena: Instagram spam. You don't need to have massive follower numbers to start getting unwanted people sliding into your DMs, and because of the way Instagram works those people can quickly make the app unpleasant. But at last, that's changing. After two months testing, Instagram has now rolled out an important change to the way it handles message requests.
This is particularly good news for women and other marginalised people, who are often very familiar with inboxes filling with messages not just from product spammers but from more concerning characters. It's good news because the change removes strangers' ability to bombard you with message requests and to include unsolicited photos, videos or voice messages in those requests.
Meta's Twitter rival Threads doesn't currently have direct messaging, but it's on the to-do list – and these safety features should carry across to that service too.
What is Instagram changing in its Message requests?
Provided you've got your privacy settings set so that people need to send a request before they can message you – a setting I'd strongly recommend you switch on, as it puts off some of the lazier spammers – other people can now only send you a single text message until or unless you accept their request.
You don't need to do anything extra to enable this, but at the other end the person who wants to contact you will see a new system message under the "invite (username) to chat" option: "You can only send one message in this invite. Remember to follow our community guidelines and be respecfgul when messaging others for the first time."
In a statement, Cindy Southworth, Meta's head of women's safety, said: "We want people to feel confident and in control when they open their inbox. That’s why we’re testing new features that mean people can’t receive images, videos or multiple messages from someone they don’t follow, until they’ve accepted the request to chat.”
This isn't the only safety improvement that Meta is making to the Instagram app. It's also rolling out improved parental controls on Insta and also on Messenger, enabling parents of younger users to see what their kids are up to on those apps.