Amid ongoing concerns around how social apps expose teens to inappropriate content, Instagram has announced some new measures to ensure that youngsters are being adequately identified in the app, building on its existing tools to detect and protect younger users.
As explained by Instagram:
“Starting today, we’re testing new options for people on Instagram to verify their age, starting with people based in the US. If someone attempts to edit their date of birth on Instagram from under the age of 18 to 18 or over, we’ll require them to verify their age using one of three options: upload their ID, record a video selfie or ask mutual friends to verify their age.”
The expanded effort will significantly enhance Instagram’s capacity for identifying underage users, with the main enhancement being a new video selfie process, in partnership with Yoti, which can provide AI-based estimates on a person’s age.
As outlined in the video, Yoti’s system is trained on a huge dataset of anonymous images of a diverse range of people from around the world. Based on this, Yoti’s process is able to accurately estimate a person’s age from a video selfie by referencing a range of parameters.
That’ll provide an extra level of protection within Instagram’s systems, in cases where there’s a question about a user’s age.
Yoti is already a leading age verification provider for several industries around the world, and the additional checking process is a significant upgrade in Meta’s tools.
And as Meta notes (repeatedly), it won’t keep your video selfie on file, neither will Yoti, so your privacy will be protected in this process.
In addition to this, Meta’s also adding a new ‘social vouching’ feature to confirm user ages.
“[Social vouching] allows you to ask mutual followers to confirm how old you are. The person vouching must be at least 18 years old, must not be vouching for anyone else at that time and will need to meet other safeguards we have in place. The three people you select to vouch for you will receive a request to confirm your age and will need to respond within three days.”
Meta once had a similar system in place for re-accessing locked accounts, with ‘Trusted Friends’ able to confirm your identity. That’s since been depreciated, but this new process will use a similar system to confirm a users’ age, adding another layer of confirmation.
The final new measure is the capacity to upload your ID to verify your age.
“We will use your ID to confirm your age and help keep our community safe. Your ID will be stored securely on our servers and is deleted within 30 days.”
Meta’s very keen, again, to point out the temporary nature of this type of data upload and usage – which makes sense, given the various misuses of personal data that’s been uploaded for similar purpose.
On top of all this, Meta also uses AI systems to understand whether someone is a teen or an adult.
“AI helps us prevent teens from accessing Facebook Dating, adults from messaging teens and helps teens from receiving restricted ad content, for example. Our goal is to expand the use of this technology more widely across our technologies.”
In combination, this is a robust series of checks for underage users, and while it won’t completely stop youngsters from logging into its apps, it will limit the capacity for underage users to gain full access to Meta’s platforms, which could be a big step in combating this key issue.
As noted, various investigations have found that social media platforms, including Instagram, can be harmful for young users, in various ways, while underage usage can also expose kids to predators and inappropriate content.
Those issues have been exacerbated over the last two years, with the pandemic lockdowns forcing more kids online for entertainment and social connection. And with parents also working from home, it’s almost impossible to be monitoring what your child is up to all of the time.
Additional measures like this are a significant and important step, and again, while it won’t stop every youngster from cheating the system, the combined effort will limit the capacity for kids to cheat their way into Meta’s apps.
The concern, at the time, was that giving youngsters a dedicated pathway into Instagram would only exacerbate potential harms, and lead more kids into the main IG app – but maybe, with enhanced age checks in place to offer more protection, that could give Meta another pathway to exploring this project in a more acceptable, safer way.
We’ll see where it goes, but Meta had been very keen to pursue this idea.
Instagram Expands NFT Display Options to More Than 100 Regions
While NFT sales continue to decline, and interest in the first wave of digital collectibles appears to be waning, Meta is expanding its support of digital collectibles, by making its NFT display option on Instagram available in more than 100 countries, meaning that the vast majority of IG users will now have the option to display their owned works in the app.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has posted his own signed baseball card, which will soon become an NFT, to announce the expansion.
Originally launched to selected creators in the US back in May, Instagram’s NFT display option enables users to showcase their NFTs within the main IG feed, in Stories or in Direct Messages.
As you can see in this example, NFTs on Instagram will be shown with a ‘digital collectibles’ tag, which, when tapped, will display information about the creator of the work, and the ownership of that digital item.
There’ll also be a new NFT tab added to participating accounts, with a tick in a hexagon to indicate verified NFTs.
Instagram’s NFT process supports a range of connections to the top crypto payment tools, including Coinbase, Dapper, Ethereum, Polygon, and Flow. NFT owners are also able to connect their Rainbow, Trust Wallet and MetaMask accounts to verify NFT ownership.
The expansion could see NFTs become a bigger part of the Instagram eco-system, which, on one hand, seems a little ill-timed – because as noted, NFT sales are seeing a significant decline at the moment. But on the other, the integration will provide another way to support artists, with Meta specifically highlighting the benefits for creators from underrepresented communities to monetize their work.
If people keep buying them. According to a recent report from CoinTelegraph, NFT sales declined to their lowest levels in a year in June, bringing them back to, essentially, pre-NFT hype cycle levels.
Of course, the broader downturn in the crypto market would also play a big role in this, but the overall consensus is that the air is coming out of the NFT market, as buyers continue to lose money – either to scams or market shifts – and the perceived value of NFT projects becomes less and less clear.
But still, this is likely only the first wave of digital collectibles.
A lot of Web3 folk like to talk about how ‘early’ they are to these trends, as if that’s a good thing, but the fact of the matter is that these early adopters are going to lose out, repeatedly, because these early projects will largely be worthless in the long run, while NFTs, as an offering, will change and morph into new areas that could see them hold value.
Just not as expensive cartoons that look like they’ve been stolen from the walls of an elementary school corridor.
The longer-term view for NFTs is that they’ll enable the trading of digital items in the metaverse, like clothing for your avatar or in-world items. This type of marketplace is already generating millions within game worlds, like Fortnite and Roblox, and Meta’s view is that NFTs are the first step towards facilitating the same on a broader scale.
As per Meta:
“We’re exploring a wide range of web3 technologies because we believe they will expand access, reduce costs, and accelerate innovation, empowering people and creators around the world. We are excited to continue listening to feedback from creators and collectors as we continue to build in this space.”
Whether crypto remains a central peg in this, or it reverts to fiat currency, the potential is there for the NFT framework to facilitate this type of cross-platform trading. But not yet.
So, yes, current Web3 folk are early. But it may not be the flex that they think.
On another front, Meta also notes that it’s working to reduce the emissions impact associated with the display of digital collectibles by purchasing renewable energy
There are various moving parts here, but the broader view is that this is not about displaying your monkey pictures within Instagram as the end, but it’s more of a stepping stone to enable Meta to integrate the trading of digital goods into its tools, in a way that aligns with current usage trends, and doesn’t feel as intrusive as, say, Meta building its own crytocurrency.
That would raise more questions, and open the door to increased regulation. But by integrating similar tools, and aligning with popular trends, that could be a more organic way to merge in digital items and payments, without raising as many eyebrows in the process.
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