Facebook and Instagram weren’t designed for people under the age of 13, so new ways are created to stop those who are underage from signing up.
Like, developing AI to find and remove underaged accounts, and new solutions to verify people’s ages.
As per terms, Facebook require people to be at least 13 years old to sign up for Facebook or Instagram. In some countries, our minimum age is higher. When people open our apps to sign up for an account, Facebook ask them for their birthday. This is called an age screen. Those who are underage are not allowed to sign up, and Facebook restrict people who repeatedly try to enter different birthdays into the age screen. But verifying someone’s age is not as simple as it might sound. While age screens are common in our industry, young people can — and often do — get around them by misrepresenting their age. So how is Facebook addressing this problem?
Understanding people’s age on the internet is a complex challenge across our industry, and Facebook have various methods of finding and removing accounts used by people who misrepresent their age. For example, anyone can report an underage account. Content reviewers are also trained to flag reported accounts that appear to be used by people who are underage. If these people are unable to prove they meet our minimum age requirements, we delete their accounts.
Many argue that collecting ID is the answer to this industry problem, but there are significant limitations to this approach: many young people don’t have an ID, ID collection isn’t a fair or equitable solution, nor is it foolproof. Access to government IDs varies depending on where you live in the world, as does the information contained in an ID such as a birthday. Some have access to IDs but don’t get them unless they choose to travel, and some simply can’t afford one. Indeed, lack of ID access disproportionately impacts underserved communities around the world, particularly young women. Even if they did have an ID, some young people may be uncomfortable sharing it. For example, perhaps they’re a young member of the LGBTQ+ community and they worry about having their identity attached to a pseudonymous account.
While these are not new problems to solve, Facebook continue to invest in finding the right solutions. Facebook need to keep people who are too young off of Facebook and Instagram, and want to make sure that those who are old enough receive the appropriate experience for their age.
Using AI to Detect Age
Artificial intelligence is the cornerstone of the approach Facebook is taking. Facebook developed technology that allows us to estimate people’s ages, like if someone is below or above 18.
Facebook: "We train the technology using multiple signals. We look at things like people wishing you a happy birthday and the age written in those messages, for example, Happy 21st Bday! or Happy Quinceañera. We also look at the age you shared with us on Facebook and apply it to our other apps where you have linked your accounts and vice versa — so if you share your birthday with us on Facebook, we’ll use the same for your linked account on Instagram. This technology isn’t perfect, and we’re always working to improve it, but that’s why it’s important we use it alongside many other signals to understand people’s ages."
This technology is also the basis of important changes we’re making to keep young people safe. Facebook: "We’re using it to stop adults from messaging young people that don’t follow them on Instagram. And we announced today that we will no longer showing posts from young people’s accounts, or the accounts themselves, to adults that have shown potentially suspicious behavior. We plan to apply this technology across our apps to create more age-appropriate experiences and safety measures for young people. We’re also building similar technology to find and remove accounts belonging to people under the age of 13."