17 Mar 2021: Instagram deploys AI tool to keep teens safer: Here's how
On Tuesday, Instagram announced a new technology that will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to determine users' age. The tool is aimed at underage youngsters who might lie about their age to create accounts on the platform.
Instagram claims its new tool will also help keep children safer on the platform by blocking adults from contacting young users.
Trust issues: AI will predict users' age, safeguarding underage children on Instagram
In a blog post announcing the new technology, Instagram explained that while most people are honest about their age when they sign up, underage youngsters tend to lie to get past the minimum age limit of 13.
It said the AI and ML engines will predict the age of a person based on their activity and the date of birth they enter when signing up.
Off-limits DMs: Instagram will prevent adults messaging teens who don't follow them
In addition to AI tools, Instagram will restrict adults from messaging teenagers who don't follow them.
When an adult tries to DM a teenager who isn't following them, a notification will inform the adult that messaging isn't an option.
Instagram will also make it harder for adults exhibiting "potentially suspicious behavior" to find teenagers' accounts in the 'Suggested Users' tab.
Promoting privacy: Instagram will encourage teens to use private accounts
Further, Instagram said it will encourage teenagers to make their accounts private.
It explained that it recently added a new sign-up step which prompts users under 18 to select a public or private account. Users can still opt for public accounts, but the benefits of a private account are made clearer.
Instagram says it will add more such measures in the near future.
Snooping on kids?: Using AI, ML to predict age raises activity tracking concerns
The latest announcements come following the release of Instagram's country-specific 'A Parent's Guide to Instagram' intended to help parents understand their children's online presence and activities.
While Instagram deserves credit for making its platform safer, deploying AI and ML implies use of potentially invasive activity tracking methods.
As Instagram doesn't specify how the algorithms estimate users' age, it is most probably through activity tracking.