Instagram, which has been criticized by security advocates, began testing a program in the US earlier this year to verify the age of users who claim to be 18 or older. It uses techniques including authentication by performing video selfies through an artificial intelligence system. Meta’s service is now ready to roll out this program to two key overseas markets: India and Brazil.
Together, these countries have about 400 million monthly active users on Instagram, according to market intelligence platform Sensor Tower, whose industry executive shared data with londonbusinessblog.com. The social network said in a updated blog post that it plans to roll out this age verification program to the UK and the EU before the end of the year.
The program allows users to upload a video of themselves, which Instagram runs through an AI system to determine if they are indeed 18 years of age or older. For this option, Instagram has partnered with UK-based identity startup Yoti. Once users take a video selfie by following the on-screen instructions, Meta shares it with Yoti for verification via the specially trained AI. Both companies say they will delete the data after that.
Users can also verify their age by providing an ID. Instagram has a list of documents it accepts for verification.
The social giant also said it is removing Social Vouching as an age verification option. Social Vouching, one of the experimental ways Instagram verified age as part of the new program, allowed a user to ask their mutual followers, who are 18 or older, to vouch for age. While it didn’t elaborate on the reason, it’s likely that some users were gaming the system by asking their mutual followers aged 18 or over to lie for them.
The rollout comes at a time when security advocates are criticizing Instagram for allowing children under 13 to use the platform and not doing enough to prevent teens from seeing potentially harmful content. For its part, Instagram last year made it mandatory for everyone to enter their date of birth, but it is difficult to rely on that factor alone as users can easily provide false information. Notably, Twitter is introducing a feature that asks users to enter their date of birth to see sensitive content.
Instagram says it uses age data to limit certain experiences for teens: It makes accounts of users under 16 private by default, blocks DMs from unknown adults and stops advertisers from showing targeted ads based on teens’ interests and activities.
Lawmakers around the world are also looking at introducing rules that force platforms to conduct effective age checks. The UK Online Security Act and the California Age-Adequate Design Code Act watch to restrict content that users under the age of 18 can access. Their investigation was prompted in part after a whistleblower testified last year to reveal that Facebook prioritized profits over the wellbeing of users, especially teens.