Instagram wants to control the age of users with artificial intelligence

The minimum age to create an Instagram account is 13, but many minors lie about their date of birth.

The photo and video sharing platform Instagram announced, Thursday, that it is testing new ways to verify the date of birth of its users, especially thanks to an artificial intelligence tool for estimating age via facial recognition.

The social network, which is part of the Meta Group (the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger), has teamed up with Yoti, a British startup that is developing an algorithm for facial recognition.

Concretely, minor Instagram users residing in the US wishing to change their age to 18 or older will have to justify their approach by filming themselves and taking the video to Meta. The snippet will then be analyzed by Yoti’s algorithm to determine the age before it is deleted.

Yoti says his tool has a margin of error of about 1.5 years for children aged 13 to 19. The figures provided by the company show more inaccuracies in female faces and people with darker skin. The startup ensures that its technology does not allow in any way to identify a subject or retrieve personal information.

Instagram accused of hurting teens

Another option that Instagram has discovered is to ask three of its contacts (all of whom must be adults) to certify the age indicated in the app. Young users already had the possibility to present an identity document (which was destroyed within 30 days) and still had the possibility to prove their age.

The minimum age to create an Instagram account is 13, but many minors circumvent this legal limit by lying about their date of birth.

Since 2021, the platform has required all of its users to report their birthday and ask for age confirmation so that they can access certain content deemed inappropriate for a very young audience. It has also implemented several parental controls, including the ability to limit screen time or schedule breaks.

These devices represent an evolution of Instagram’s rhetoric, which previously thought it was not responsible for age verification. In 2021, Instagram was rocked by revelations from a former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, who leaked documents showing that network executives knew the mental health risks of applying to minors.

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