Recently, Facebook has been focusing a lot on making Instagram a safe space for everyone. It announced efforts to protect kids from adults, a tool to filter offensive DMs, the ability to add pronouns on profiles, and content sensitivity controls for the platform. Now, it has announced that people under the age of 16 will have their accounts set to private by default when they sign up for Instagram.
Previously, Instagram allowed anyone who signed up to choose between private and public accounts, but its testing has indicated that most youngsters opt for the former. As such, moving forward, people under the age of 16 will have private accounts by default when they register for Instagram. In some countries, this minimum age threshold will be configured to 18.
The idea is to offer a safe environment for young people, allowing them to make friends and see the content they are interested in without being bothered by unsolicited interactions from adults in DMs or comments. It is important to note that while new accounts for youngsters will be private by default, account-holders will still have the option to change it to public. Similarly, those with existing public accounts will be notified about the benefits of private accounts and will also be informed about how to enable the configuration.
In a separate blog post, Facebook has also outlined how it is using artificial intelligence (AI) to roughly estimate the respective ages of its platform's users. This utilizes various signals including information shared across social media platforms owned by Facebook to determine your age. The company has highlighted that the technology isn't perfect yet but it is working to improve it so it can be applied across its other apps as well. In the same vein, this technology may also be used to remove the accounts of those who are below 13 years of age. Facebook and Instagram both require users to be over 13 years of age, but many below this threshold easily bypass the age gate by misrepresenting information.
The aforementioned technology is also used to prevent accounts exhibiting "potentially suspicious behavior" from interacting with youngsters on Instagram. Suspicious accounts won't be able to follow youngsters, see their comments, or offer interactions of any kind. The technology will be available in the U.S., Australia, France, the UK, and Japan initially, but will be expanded to more countries soon.
Finally, another major change coming to all Facebook platforms is regarding advertising. Advertisers will not be able to present targeted ads to people below the age of 18. This essentially means that advertisers will not have access to the interests of people below the age of 18. This change will not be configurable for people until they turn 18, at which point they will be informed about the targeting options used by advertisers. These changes will be rolled out in a few weeks.