Instagram expands AI-powered age verification program to India and Brazil • TechCrunch

Instagram, which faces scrutiny from safety advocates, began testing a program in the US earlier this year to verify the age of users claiming to be 18 or older. It uses techniques including pass-through authentication run selfie video through artificial intelligence system. The Meta-owned service is now ready to roll out the program to two major overseas markets: India and Brazil.

These countries together have about 400 million monthly active users on Instagram, according to market intelligence platform Sensor Tower, data an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. Social network said in a blog post updated that it plans to roll out this age verification scheme to the UK and the European Union before the end of the year.

Users can verify their age by providing an ID. Instagram has a list of documents it accepts for verification.

The program allows users to upload a video of themselves, which Instagram runs through an AI system to determine if they’re actually 18 or older. For this option, Instagram has partnered with UK-based identity startup Yoti. After the user completes taking a video selfie by following the on-screen instructions, Meta will share that with Yoti for verification via specially trained AI. Both companies said they would delete the data afterwards.

Many social media companies use Yoti’s age estimation technology for verification as many users may not have a valid ID accepted by Instagram.

Image credits: Instagram

The social giant also said it is removing Social Vouchers as an option for age verification. Social vouchers, one of the experimental ways Instagram verifies age as part of a new program, allows users to ask their general followers, who are 18 or older, to confirm their age . While it doesn’t expand on the reasons, it is likely that some users gamed the system by asking their general followers 18 years or older to lie to them.

The rollout comes at a time when safety advocates are criticizing Instagram for allowing children under 13 to use the platform and not doing enough to prevent teens from viewing harmful content. For my part, last year Instagram did just that forcing everyone to enter their date of birth, but it’s hard to just rely on that factor because users can easily provide false information. Notably, Twitter is rolling out a feature require users to enter their date of birth to view sensitive content.

Instagram says it uses age data to restrict certain experiences to teenagers: by default, it sets the accounts of users under 16 to private, blocking direct messages from unidentified adults and prevent advertisers from serving targeted ads based on youth interests and activities.

Lawmakers around the world are also considering introducing rules that force platforms to have effective age checks. UK Online Safety Bill and California’s Age-appropriate Design Code Act seeks to restrict content that can be accessed by users under the age of 18. Their scrutiny was prompted in part after a whistleblower testified last year that Facebook had prioritized profits over the happiness of its users, especially teenagers.


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