If Instagram suspects you are fibbing about your age, you’ll currently see the following message:
“You must be at least 13 years old to have an Instagram account. We disabled your account because you are not old enough yet. If you believe we made a mistake, please verify your age by submitting a valid photo ID that clearly shows your face and date of birth.”
Now Meta has announced it’s testing new options for people on Instagram to verify their age, starting with people in the US. The new options are uploading a video selfie, and social vouching. The old verification method to upload an ID is still an option for those that prefer it.
Users that are unable to verify their age will have their accounts deleted.
The verification procedure starts when a user attempts to raise their age from under to above 18. This is relevant since Instagram provides users from 13 -17 years old with age-appropriate experiences like defaulting them into private accounts, preventing unwanted contact from adults they don’t know, and limiting the options advertisers have to reach them with ads.
Other reasons Instagram might ask you to verify your age are it receives a report from another Instagram user, or a content reviewers flags your accounts as appearing to be in use by someone underage.
The social vouching option allows you to ask mutual followers to confirm how old you are. You might expect this to be an option that can easily be abused, but Meta says it’s built in additional safeguards. Three people must independently confirm the user is over 18, and they all must be at least 18 years old themselves and not be vouching for anyone else at that time.
Certainly the option that raises some concerns is the video selfie. You can choose to upload a video selfie to verify your age. If you choose this option, you’ll see instructions on your screen to guide you through the process. The age analysis, an estimate of your age based on your facial features, is done by Yoti, and both Meta and Yoti promise to delete the image once the analysis has completed.
You may have heard of Yoti due to its digital ID app. Yoti is a free consumer app that offers you a way of proving who you are online and in person. In the UK, Yoti is a government-approved digital ID provider, which allows UK citizens to prove their identities with an app instead of physical documents when applying for a job or renting a property.
Additional AI usage
In addition to testing the new menu of options to verify people’s ages, Meta uses Artificial Intelligence to estimate people’s ages. This can be very simple indicators, like birthday wishes, or comparing the age of linked accounts, such as your Facebook and Instagram accounts. But it can also look at interactions with other profiles and content. For example, people in the same age group tend to interact similarly with certain types of content. From those signals, the model learns to make calculations about whether someone is an adult or a teen.