Instagram introduces age verification, but not to keep kids off the app


The faces of Meta have grown over the presence of children under the age of 13 on its apps.

Instagram logo displayed on an iPhone. Gabby Jones / Bloomberg

Instagram may ask you to prove your age – but only under certain circumstances.

The photo and video-sharing platform said Thursday it will begin testing new tools for age verification if accounts under 18 try to change their age to over 18.

But users can still misrepresent their date of birth while setting up the account.

The change comes as Instagram’s parent company Meta is facing increased scrutiny over the presence of children under the age of 13 on its apps. A federal privacy law prohibits collecting data on people under the age of 13 without a parent’s permission, but only if the platform knows it’s happening, which Let companies see you differently, claim privacy advocates. State and federal legislators have proposed a variety of bills—including the Kids Online Safety Act in the Senate, the Children and Adolescents Online Privacy Protection Act in the Senate, and the Age-Appropriate Design Code Act in California—that would allow tech companies to significantly Will increase from ‘ Legal responsibility for the safety of children online.

Thursday’s change isn’t focused on keeping young children off Instagram, but ensuring teen accounts reflect the right age and receive the right safeguards, said Erica Finkel, Meta’s director of data governance and public policy. Huh. For example, teen accounts cannot receive direct messages from adults they are not connected to, and they are protected from certain types of ad targeting. Instagram recently began shutting down teen accounts to turn on the “Take a Break” feature, which reminds them to stop scrolling the platform’s infinite-scroll feed.

“I’m working with policymakers, with regulators, and we all share the same goal,” Finkel said. “What’s really driving all of this, regardless of the specific piece of legislation, is making sure teens have appropriate experiences online and are safe and protected.”

Adult accounts that attempt to change their age to under 18 must already provide a form of ID for verification. Now, the company is experimenting with new ways to verify age. people can still send an accepted form of ID, which Meta says will be securely stored and removed within 30 days. They can ask up to three Instagram friends to confirm their age – those friends must be adults, they must respond within three days and can’t be authenticated to anyone else. Or, they can submit a “video selfie” and Meta will use AI from digital-detection company Yoti to estimate their age, the company says.

Yoti says its AI is trained on images of faces of people around the world who gave their “explicit, revocable” consent.

For parents and others concerned about youth on Instagram, the move seems incomplete, says Irene Lee, policy advisor for Common Sense Media, an organization that advocates for child-friendly media policies. In 2021, leaked documents suggested Meta had buried internal research on Instagram’s harmful effects on young women, according to whistleblower and former Meta employee Frances Haugen.

“While it’s cool that Instagram is trying to experiment with technology to verify users’ ages that won’t compromise users’ privacy, Instagram should still make design changes to the platform so that it’s more accessible to younger users.” Be safe,” Lee said. “It will not address the fact that their algorithm is increasing harmful content promoting disordered eating, self-harm or substance abuse.”

Meta spokeswoman Faith Eisen said the app’s existing . pointed to Guidelines for algorithmically recommended content And its sensitive content controlWhich allows people to reduce or increase the amount of guns, drugs, bare bodies and violence they see on Instagram.

Even the idea that Instagram’s age-predicting AI protects privacy is up for debate, said Mutale Nkonde, founder of algorithmic justice organization AI for the People and a member of TikTok’s content moderation advisory board. it is said. Meta is notorious for internally sharing data on its users to create detailed profiles, she said – how can people ensure that Meta and Yoti are not using their video selfies for any purpose other than age verification? Are? In addition, Nkonde said that one reason Instagram may be running its age-verification test in the United States is because, unlike the European Union, companies can collect data from people under the age of 16. She asked: Why are the guinea pigs for the face of the teen meta-scanning partnership?

“Children are a protected class, so every precaution should be taken to protect them rather than using them to test a new technology,” she said. “This is an inappropriate use case.”

Eischen said Yoti is a respected company with internal research that backs the accuracy and fairness of its AI. He said the system never recognizes faces, only guesses their age. And Meta will never use the data collected for age verification for any other purpose, she said.

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