Instagram in the region

Doaa A.Moneim , Tuesday 18 Jan 2022

Tara Hopkins, Instagram director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, talks about the company’s policies on the sidelines of last week’s World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh

Tara Hopkins, Instagram director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Tara Hopkins, Instagram director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Al-Ahram Weekly: What was your contribution to the 2022 World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh?

Tara Hopkins: Our focus at the World Youth Forum was all about youth safety on Instagram. This includes shedding light on the new tools we’ve developed to keep young people safe on the platform and help prevent unwanted interactions between adults and young people.

These tools include preventing adults from direct messaging teens who don’t follow them, safety notices, a new privacy experience, and improving our work to understand people’s real age by developing new artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology to help us keep teens safer and apply new age-appropriate features.

Currently, we require everyone to be at least 13 to use Instagram and ask for users to provide their age upon signing up.

We want Instagram to be a safe and supportive place for our entire community around the world, especially young people, who we know are particularly vulnerable to bullying. Having clear-cut policies and generating awareness about them can make a huge difference to the audience experience.

We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on how we can encourage more positive interactions, and how we can give our community more control over what they see and experience. Consequently, we have introduced several online safety tools to help users avoid and prevent unwanted interactions with bullies on the platform, such as Hidden Words, Comment Filter, Restrict, Report, Block, Mute, and many others. We have also launched an updated Parents Guide in English, French, German and Italian, and it will be launching in Arabic very soon. This guide, launched in partnership with renowned parenting organisations, is to help parents have conversations with their teens about their time on Instagram.

AW: What are some of your important projects in Egypt?

TH: At Instagram, we continuously evaluate our partnerships and align ourselves with credible partners and projects that closely resonate with what we want to achieve within our communities. For example, in November 2020, Instagram launched its debut anti-bullying national campaign in Egypt, entitled #ChooseWordsWisely, in partnership with the National Council for Women, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, and UNICEF to empower Egyptian Instagram users to protect themselves and others against online bullying.

Through this campaign, our goals were three-fold: to raise awareness of the harmful impact online bullying can have; to encourage our community to be kinder online; and to help empower our community in Egypt to be as safe as possible as well as to use our anti-bullying tools to stay safe on Instagram.

The campaign was met with huge community impact and advocacy results, including many public figures, celebrities and content creators also sharing the campaign messages and guide, helping our campaign #ChooseWordsWisely reach a combined 22.5 million audience.

AW: How can a popular platform like Instagram help developing countries, including Egypt, in their efforts towards digital transformation?

TH: Digital transformation is not a one-size-fits-all strategy but rather an ongoing process that includes diverse stakeholders to harness the global digital revolution and meet a country’s socio-economic priorities. The world is inherently shifting towards digital transformation, developing countries included, as they’re primarily composed of youth, a driving force powering digitisation.

On Instagram, young people play a critical role in driving the digital transformation. We’ve seen teens on our platform who are eager to build online communities that transcend geographical boundaries, while others are fixated on growing their talents and making a living purely from virtual means spanning a diversity of sectors.  

Instagram is also an ideal space for creating businesses online, helping owners boost their economic activity and create a global virtual storefront. We want Instagram and Facebook to serve as a home base for creators and business owners to tell their story, grow, and make a living. Whether they are just starting out or are further along in building their business, we want to support the youth and give them ways to accomplish their goals.

We’re also invested in improving connectivity across the world through cutting-edge technologies. Since 2013, our efforts have helped more than 300 million people benefit from better infrastructure, network analytics, or access technologies, and our continued work in this area could help provide connectivity for up to three billion people.

One example of this work is the 2Africa subsea cable. Expected to launch in 2023, 2Africa will significantly increase connectivity within Africa and better connect Africa to the rest of the world, as it will ultimately interconnect 33 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, including Egypt. 2Africa will provide connectivity to an additional 1.8 billion people, totaling three billion people, or about 36 per cent of the global population.

AW: What is Instagram’s contribution to realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

TH: As part of Meta, we’re empowering people and organisations to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Our mission is to give people the power to build communities and bring the world closer together. We believe in supporting inclusive communities, in which everyone has a voice and access to opportunities. That’s why Meta is supporting the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals and working alongside our partners to drive progress towards these goals by 2030.

While it’s possible to link Meta’s work to all the SDGs, best practice challenges companies to prioritise specific sectors where they can move the needle the most. For example, we’re working towards SDG 3: good health and well-being, SDG 5: gender equality, and SDG 8: decent work and economic growth, amongst others.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 January, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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