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In hopes of protecting young users from age-restricted content, Instagram is now requiring new users to provide birthdates.
This initiative replaces the app’s old method of simply asking new users if they are 13 years old and above. The company adopted the new policy in December 2019. Aside from asking for birthdates, the app now also lets users block messages from other accounts that they do not follow. This will help keep minors away from inappropriate content posted by other users.
The policy change is the app’s response to criticisms from several family safety groups that Instagram is letting children see content that is not suitable for them.
The company will not require users to give proof of the birthdates they provide. However, it will use artificial intelligence to predict users’ age based on their interactions, activities, and other in-app data.
Instagram has started to develop software that can automate the prediction of a user’s age and gender. So, in addition to the self-reported birthdates, Instagram will analyze posts from users and other accounts they have interacted with to verify their real age.
The new move was met with reservations, however. Privacy consultant Linnette Attai said that the change does not address the need to delete all accounts owned by underage users.
Lindsey Barrett, a lawyer and educator at Georgetown’s Communications and Technology Law Clinic, is also skeptical that Instagram’s efforts will succeed. She believes that children 13 years old and below will still sign up for Instagram even if it means that they have to lie about their age.