Instagram is looking into new ways for teens to verify their age and adhere to site policies. As a new age-verification approach, the Meta-owned app is testing video selfies with facial analysis algorithms.
Some Instagram users attempt to circumvent the 13+ age restriction by altering their date of birth to appear older than 18. However, US minors who attempt this will now be offered three options for age verification: upload ID, ask three adult users to vouch for them, or record a video selfie.
Meta hopes that the new ways would provide teens with a “age-appropriate experience” on Instagram. The digital behemoth has already been chastised for teen and kid safety on its services.
In response to leaks by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, many US states investigated Instagram last year over children’s experiences on the photo-sharing platform.
The study is encouraging, according to Will Gardner OBE, chief executive of Childnet and director of the UK Safer Internet Centre: “The potential is there to try and help safeguard children from information that isn’t for them and make their internet experience more age-appropriate.”
According to the 5Rights Foundation, a UK-based organisation dedicated to child protection in the digital age, such initiatives are “far overdue.”
Platforms should “leave behind the ‘don’t look don’t see attitude’ that has led to millions of children being put at risk”, 5Rights says, adding that “simply knowing the age of your users is not enough.”
Earlier this month, parents and guardians of teen Instagram users were given extra tools to monitor their child’s Instagram experience. They can now establish time limits and check specifics of any reports made by their child on the platform.
Teens will also be “nudged” to look at other content if they keep viewing the same themes on Instagram’s explore tab, and they will be advised to “take a break” if they keep scrolling through reels.
Video selfies have become a popular tool for digital platforms to authenticate users’ age or identity, such as online banking apps.
Instagram presently employs video selfies to authenticate account holders’ identities if they are locked out of their accounts.
Yoti, a UK-based digital identity firm, has teamed with Meta to estimate age by analysing human faces and facial traits.
Yoti claims that its algorithm, which was trained on anonymous people’s facial photos and dates of birth, cannot identify individuals or anything about them other than their age.
Its most recent white paper, issued in May, stated that the technology was accurate for six to 12-year-olds with an error range of 1.36 years – and accurate for 13 to 19-year-olds with an error range of 1.52 years.
According to Meta, after a user’s age is verified, both businesses will erase the photograph.
Meanwhile, social vouching allows users to authenticate their age by asking three mutual followers.
Those requested to validate a user’s age must be at least 18 years old and cannot be vouching for any other users at the same time.
The meta graphic depicts how the Instagram app’s social vouching age verification process would seem.
Instagram’s new age-verification measures, according to Dr. Ysabel Gerrard, lecturer in digital media and society at the University of Sheffield, are a welcome addition to simply requiring users to upload ID.
However, she believes that depending on age-verification methods to protect young people online overlooks the reason why they attempt to create adult identities in the first place.
“A lot of them are saying they’re 18 on Instagram not to do bad things or view bad content,” Dr Gerrard says.
“Being technically registered as an adult makes them feel safe because they don’t think they’re going to be targeted.”
Instagram’s new verification processes, according to Dr. Gerrard, raise wider questions about what makes youngsters feel safe on social media networks.
“Pretending to be an adult is one of them. It’s a harsh reality, but we can’t pretend it’s not happening.”
(Adapted from DW.com)