The photo-sharing app Instagram has unveiled a new feature on its social media service. Users will be able to send photos to complete strangers who have not chosen to “follow” them, a feature critics say will result in strangers “sexting” people without warning.
On December 12, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom announced the new feature, called “Instagram Direct.” Users will be able to send photos to up to 15 others at a time, even complete strangers.
Those users who haven’t chosen to follow the sender will find photos diverted to a separate “pending requests” inbox, but they will still get the photos sent to them unbidden. Prior to the launch of Instagram Direct, Instagram users could not receive photos from anyone they hadn’t already chosen to follow.
Critics of the new feature have already spoken up, saying that this will allow people to send “sexts” to strangers.
If you get images you don’t like from someone you don’t know, Instagram less-than-helpfully suggests you “just ignore people you don’t want to hear from.”
Indeed, there is an option to block users that send unwanted images. However, the blocking feature only works once a photo has been received.
Users worry that this new feature could expose them not only to unwanted “sexting” from strangers but to spam from companies trying to use the new feature for advertising.