Image of a woman's hands as she uses Instagram
October 28, 2020

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

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Haley McNamara (Halverson)

Vice President and Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation

Haley McNamara (formerly Halverson) is the Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation in the UK, and a Vice President at the U.S. based National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She leads international efforts and joint campaigns to improve policies and education among global governing bodies, citizenry, and corporations regarding the full web of sexual exploitation issues. Her advocacy work has contributed to policy improvements in social media, online advertising, retail, and hotel industries. She has advocated at the United Nations, led international coalition campaigns, presented to Danish, Croatian, Colombian and Rwandan government officials, and more

She is a former member of the Washington DC Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. This Committee advises DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on the multi-faceted continuum of the District of Columbia’s child welfare services, including prevention, early intervention, treatment, and sources of permanency.

Haley regularly speaks and writes on topics including child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual objectification, the exploitation of males, and more. She has presented before officials at the United Nations, as well as at several national symposia before influencers from the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Croatian government officials. She has provided training to Arlington County Child & Family Services on the social media grooming, recruitment, and advertising for sex trafficking. She has a Master of Arts in Government from Johns Hopkins University where she received honors for her thesis regarding the online commercial sexual exploitation marketplace.

Previously, Haley served for two years as Director of Communications for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation where she oversaw strategic messaging development, press outreach, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Prior to working at NCOSE, Haley wrote for a cultural media outlet. Haley graduated from Hillsdale College (summa cum laude) with a double major, and conducted a senior thesis on the abolitionist argument regarding prostitution. During her studies, she studied abroad at Oxford University and established a background in policy research through several internships in the DC area.

Haley has appeared on, or been quoted in, several outlets including the New York Times, NBC’s The Today Show, BBC News, New York Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Fox News, San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, Voice of America, Dr. Drew Midday Live, The DeMaio Report, the New York Daily News, the Washington Examiner, USA Radio Network, the Washington Times, CBC News, The Rod Arquette Show, The Detroit News, Lifezette, The Christian Post, Lifeline with Neil Boron, EWTN News Nightly, KCBS San Francisco Radio, LifeSiteNews, The Drew Mariano Show on Relevant Radio, News Talk KGVO, and American Family News.

She has written op-eds for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post,, Washington Examiner,, Darling Magazine, the Daytona-Beach News Journal, and has been published in the Journal of Internet Law and the journal Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and ViolenceShe has also contributed to a digital middle school curriculum regarding the links between sex trafficking and pornography as well as the public health impacts of sex trafficking.

Further Reading