In a major update from 7 November 2022, anyone editing their date of birth on Instagram from under 18 to over 18 will be asked to verify their age by either uploading their ID or by recording a video selfie - analysed by independent age estimation technology.
The new system would help ensure users were having an age-appropriate experience on the platform. Currently, users must be aged 13 or older to use the app.
Why is Instagram introducing age verification?
Online safety campaigners have long called for age verification technology to become mandatory to protect children from inappropriate and potentially harmful content. Instagram’s age estimation system sees the company working with UK firm Yoti, which specialises in the technology.
The two companies said that after a user records their selfie it is shared with Yoti, which uses its technology to analyse facial features and then share an age estimation with Instagram. They note that Yoti’s technology is not facial recognition technology and therefore cannot identify or recognise anyone – only estimate the age of the face it is shown.
No account details are shared with Yoti during this process and the image is instantly deleted by both Yoti and Instagram after the age has been estimated, the firms say. Instagram first began testing the system in a number of other countries earlier this year.
In June, Instagram announced it was exploring ways for teenagers to verify their age. In a US trial, teenagers were asked to verify their age in three ways:
- upload ID
- ask three adult users to vouch for them
- take a video selfie
What has been the response?
In response to the announcement, the NSPCC said it was pleased to see steps being taken, but said the measures did not go far enough and suggested the tools should be applied to everyone on the site.
Richard Collard, NSPCC policy and regulatory manager, said: “With Ofcom research showing that a third of under-18s on social media admitted setting up adult accounts, it is crucial that Instagram takes the necessary steps to ensure that these children are not being exposed to risk or harm. He said: “But these measures will seemingly do little to stop new young users creating adult accounts on Instagram or protect children who are already using them. This halfway house is exactly why the Government needs to quickly deliver a robust Online Safety Bill which makes sure that every social media site has a legal obligation to protect children from harmful content on their platform.”
Tara Hopkins, Instagram’s public policy director, said: “We want everyone to experience Instagram in a way that’s appropriate for their age, which means we need to know how old they are – and this is a challenge across our industry. That’s why today’s announcement is such an important step, and why we’re particularly excited to be working with Yoti, who are leading the way in building effective technology to verify age, while putting privacy first.
“This work complements our ongoing efforts to improve our age detection technology, and to develop new ways to give teens the safest and most meaningful experience possible on Instagram.”
Julie Dawson, chief policy and regulatory officer at Yoti, said: “Proving age online is a complex, industry-wide challenge. We are delighted to continue our work with Meta to create age-appropriate experiences and enable people to thrive and be safe online. Our facial age estimation is a privacy-preserving solution. We built it to give everyone a secure way to prove their age without sharing their name or an ID document.
“The technology can allow minors to access content which is appropriate for their age, whilst protecting the privacy of users. Today’s announcement is another step in the right direction to create safer online environments.”