Instagram will start testing strong age verification for the first time, requiring users who try to change their age from under-18 to over-18 to either upload a video selfie for automatic age verification, or find three adults to vouch for them.
The changes, which are initially rolling out in the US, will apply only to users who have already indicated they are under 18, but try to edit their date of birth to gain access to age-restricted features.
Those users are currently asked to upload ID to prove their age, but that approach carries privacy and security risks, which could make it undesirable for some. “Knowing people’s age allows us to provide appropriate experiences to different age groups, specifically teens,” the company said.
“We require people to be at least 13 years old to sign up for Instagram. In some countries, our minimum age is higher. When we know if someone is a teen (13-17), we provide them 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.”
In the first of the new options, a user uploads a video selfie, which is shared with the age verification startup Yoti. The British company uses the footage to estimate the age of the uploader, then deletes it from its servers.
John Abbott, its chief business officer, told the Guardian last year that the system is already as good as a person at estimating someone’s age, and that its accuracy has been tested against a range of demographics to ensure it does not miscategorise any particular group.
The second option will instead allow an Instagram user to turn to other adults to vouch for their age. They will need to find, within three days, three mutual followers, all of whom are over 18, and none of whom is vouching for anyone else at the same time, to confirm their age.
“Understanding someone’s age online is a complex, industry-wide challenge,” Instagram said. “We want to work with others in our industry, and with governments, to set clear standards for age verification online.
“Many people, such as teens, don’t always have access to the forms of ID that make age verification clear and simple. As an industry, we have to explore novel ways to approach the dilemma of verifying someone’s age when they don’t have an ID.”