PROGRESS! Instagram Takes Step Forward via Improved Reporting and Direct Message Tools

Instagram has made significant improvements to address the sexual exploitation and abuse that occur on its platform.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has been communicating and working with Instagram for over a year. We are grateful to report regular positive developments from this collaboration following meetings with an international campaign led by Australian Collective Shout, Canadian Defend Dignity, and the UK-based International Centre on Sexual Exploitation (a division of NCOSE) and Courtney’s House in Washington DC.

Instagram Improvement #1: Reporting Systems

In recent years, survivors, advocates, and parents alike have been frustrated by limited reporting options on Instagram. For years the only real reporting option was “this is nudity or pornography,” which disincentivized people from submitting reports regarding other sexually exploitive actions.

Now, we are glad to report that Instagram has rolled out a new reporting system to 100% of its one billion monthly active users, worldwide. This new reporting system includes the ability to report an account for sexual exploitation or solicitation, non-consensually shared images, and sexually exploitive actions involving a child. We know that these new systems will 1) improve Instagram’s responses to reports and 2) incentivize reporting for these categories.

To report a post, simply click the three dots “…” on the upper right-hand corner of the post. Click “report” and then you will see your reporting options.

Screen shot of Instagram's improved reporting functions for users

Instagram Improvement #2: Direct Messages

Instagram has rolled out a new ability for users to turn off receiving direct messages from strangers, or people that they do not follow, in the USA and we expect it to soon reach more global users.

This is a significant victory! Survivors of sex trafficking have shared with us that they and their peers regularly received unsolicited messages from men asking them for sex or sending them pornography. This improvement was made in direct response to these concerns.

Earlier this fall Facebook updated Instagram chats and Facebook Messenger to make it easier for people to connect and share across both platforms. Users who linked Instagram and Messenger accounts can now choose the option to block cross-network messages (e.g. sending a message from Instagram to Messenger or vice versa) by going to Facebook Messenger “Account Settings,” tapping “Privacy,” clicking “Message Delivery,” and under “Other People” they can change the setting to “Don’t Receive Requests.”

People on Instagram who have not linked with Messenger or don’t use Facebook can enable the new message control feature by going to “Settings,” tapping “Privacy,” then clicking on Messages. Users can choose whether message requests from potential connections go to their Message Requests folder or whether to receive them at all. For more information about the new features, visit Instagram’s Help Center.

We are glad to celebrate when a company is taking steps in the right direction, engaging with survivors and international experts, and creating more safeguarding tools for users.

This is not the end, though. There are still future improvements to come!

2020 Dirty Dozen List poster (National Center on Sexual Exploitation)
Find other ways to take action through the Dirty Dozen List

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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