In a bid to end the debate regarding the safety of children on Instagram, the company has decided to make date of birth a requirement on the platform. With this policy, which comes into effect from December 4, the Facebook-owned social network plans to block out all age-inappropriate ads and post for children below 13.
Instagram, in its official statement, said “We will use the birthday information you share with us to create more tailored experiences, such as education around account controls and recommended privacy settings for young people.”
The new settings are being rolled out to all users, including in India.
In addition, even businesses and other users can mark their posts to be inappropriate for children in order to keep the post off children’s feed. However, the company will not be using mechanism to verify the age as most teenagers will find it difficult to confirm their age. These birth dates will not be visible to other users.
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With users linking their Facebook account with Instagram, Instagram already has a database to verify the age. So if any one with linked account change their birthdate on Facebook, it will also automatically get updated on Instagram. In addition to this, the company has also trained a machine learning platform to predict users’ age and gender by roughly analysing and posts which mentions “happy birthday”.
However, the platform is reluctant to use verification to personalise features or determine if someone is lying, Instagram’s head of product Vishal Shah assured, in an interview with Reuters. Shah believes that by using the feature, Instagram will raise reliability and transparency issues.
For now, the company has decided to trust that users will not lie about their age, but eventually, the platform will rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to aid the age verification. Instagram decided to roll out the feature after the platform was being accused of showing inappropriate content to children in various countries like the US, Britain and other regions.
Jeffer Chester, who focuses on kids’ safety issues at the Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy, told Reuters that the new policy has been long overdue and is in alignment of US laws to safeguard the children under 13 on online platforms.
On the other hand, London-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children pointed out that the unverified date of birth will do no good in order to protect children from age-inappropriate content.
In the company weeks, Instagram will also be rolling out new features that will allow users to block messages from people they do not follow.