Instagram wants to know your birthday – and it’s for your own good

Instagram has started showing a pop-up asking for the date of birth of users who have not filled in this information in their profile. — AFP Relaxnews

Instagram wants to know your birth date! Not to wish you a happy birthday, but to better control the type of content viewers see, based on age. It’s a setting that will become mandatory and will hopefully serve its purpose of protecting younger users.

Soon, there won’t be any way around it. Instagram intends to make it mandatory for you to provide your date of birth if you want to continue using its service. The social network unveiled this new measure on August 30 on its blog.

From now on, users will no longer be able to skip this step to avoid disclosing their date of birth indefinitely.

Instagram plans to make this information mandatory: “First, we’ll start to ask you for your birthday when you open Instagram. We’ll show you a notification a handful of times and if you haven’t provided us with your birthday by a certain point, you’ll need to share it to continue using Instagram,” said Pavni Diwanji, vice president of youth products, on the official blog.

This new mandatory setting aims to better control the content offered by Instagram to users – advertisements, features tailored to the age of the users – in order to improve the user experience and respond to criticism of their lack of moderation and how it affects young users’ safety: “This information also allows us to personalise your experience, for example, we can apply recent changes we made to restrict advertiser targeting options for audiences under the age of 18, to more people. It also helps us show you more relevant ads,” explained Diwanji.

Hidden content

Recently, the social network unveiled new features related to the age of users. Young people under 16 years old could see their account switched to private mode by default – a measure taken by the American giant to improve the protection of its young users.

Last March, users over 18 years old could no longer send private messages to underage users who did not follow them – a policy Instagram uses as an example for justifying the mandatory disclosure of users’ date of birth to the platform. “This information allows us to create new safety features for young people, and helps ensure we provide the right experiences to the right age group,” reads the Instagram blog.

To get users to play along, Instagram will be able to cover content on a user’s news feed and require the date of birth to unlock the warning. This type of moderation is already used to hide so-called sensitive or graphic content that has been flagged as such, leaving it up to the user to agree to unlock the image but without providing their birthday.

Using AI to check information

Of course, with this setting, everything relies on the honesty of users. There’s no way to verify such information without providing proof through official documents, which Instagram does not ask for.

The platform recognises this limitation and is working on an artificial intelligence technology to check the veracity of the data. For this, the technology will study the comments, particularly on birthdays: “We recognise some people may give us the wrong birthday, and we’re developing new systems to address this. As we shared recently, we’re using artificial intelligence to estimate how old people are based on things like ‘Happy Birthday’ posts.”

Instagram is also working on a system for users to verify their age if it doesn’t match the age found by the technology used by the platform. – AFP Relaxnews

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