Instagram Introduces New Ways To Verify User Age

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Instagram testing system to verify users' ages
Instagram testing system to verify user ages.

Instagram is beginning to roll out changes to help verify the ages of its younger U.S. users after last year’s reports that its parent company, Meta, was overlooking its potentially negative effects on teenagers.

On Thursday, Instagram released a blog post where it laid out the ways it is piloting to help verify a user’s age. It consisted of two new options: uploading a video selfie taken and submitted for age verification and “social vouching,” which requires three adults to verify the user’s age. 

These in-test options build on an earlier requirement for users to upload their identification cards to confirm one's age. This approach, however, was saddled with concerns related to privacy and security as well as being easily spoofed by submitting another's identification or a fake ID.

"Understanding someone’s age online is a complex, industry-wide challenge. We want to work with others in our industry, and with governments, to set clear standards for age verification online," said Instagram in the blog post. 

Instagram is partnering with a British identity verification firm called Yoti for determining whether the video selfie submitted matches the user’s stated age. According to the company, Yoti is verified by the Age Check Certification Scheme, a United Kingdom-based program, and has also been endorsed by German regulators.

Yoti develops its datasets using anonymous images taken of diverse people from around the world who consented to Yoti using their image for its software. Both companies maintain that the video selfie will only be kept until a user's age has been verified and will then be deleted.

As for the social vouching program, a user will be required to ask mutual followers to confirm their age and they must be at least 18 years old and cannot vouch for multiple people at the same time. The three adults will then receive a request by Instagram to confirm the prospective user's age within three days.

Since 2019, Instagram has prompted new users to disclose their age, and in 2021, made it a requirement for everyone signing up for an account.

After a trove of leaked Facebook documents revealed the company conducted internal research showing it knew of Instagram’s potentially negative impact on teens, contradicting its assurances to the public, scrutiny of the service intensified. 

Last year, Instagram began moving to develop an "Instagram for kids" that would include more parental involvement and stricter privacy around a user's account. The company paused the plan in September 2021 in favor of building better parental supervision tools on the platform.

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