Instagram tests new tools for age verification

Instagram on Thursday said it is testing new methods for users to verify their age on the platform, starting with people in the US. The image sharing platform said it has partnered with Yoti, a company that specializes in online age verification just by scanning the face.

Currently, Instagram asks users to verify their age only when teenagers try to edit their birth date to show them as 18 or older. To verify their age, users can send in pictures of various ID cards.

“When we know if someone is a teen (13-17 years), we provide them with age-appropriate experiences like defaulting them into private accounts, preventing unwanted contact from adults they don’t know and limiting the options advertisers have to reach them with ads,” Erica Finkle, director of data governance at Meta, said in a blog post.

Now, the company is testing two new ways to verify a user’s age, in addition to allowing them to upload their identity proof online. 1) Social vouching and 2) AI estimation.

In the first method, social vouching, Instagram will ask to select three mutual followers to confirm the user’s age, and the person vouching must be at least 18 years old. 

In the second method, AI estimation, users can upload a video selfie to verify their age, after which Yoti’s machine learning technology estimates their age based on facial features. Both Meta and Yoti will delete the image once the age has been verified.

Yoti is a well-known player in online age and ID verification. It uses various facial signals to estimate a target’s age.

The move comes after Instagram paused the launch of Instagram Kids last year, after receiving criticism and opposition for the project.

Instagram Kids had children under the age of 13 as its target audience. This version of Instagram was meant to provide children age-appropriate content with measures allowing parents to supervise usage. Competitors TikTok and YouTube already have versions of their app developed specifically for children.

The decision to put Instagram Kids on hold comes after a scathing series by the Wall Street Journal, which reported that Facebook was aware that the use of Instagram by some teenage girls led to mental health issues and anxiety. The US lawmakers and advocacy groups urged the image-sharing platform to drop its launch plans, citing safety concerns.

 

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