Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Facebook has confirmed that it will move forward with developing an Instagram app for users under 13 years of age despite 44 US attorneys general advising against the plan.
In a letter addressed to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the attorneys general of several U.S. states expressed their concerns about social media use amongst young people.
"Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account. Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms. The attorneys general have an interest in protecting our youngest citizens, and Facebook’s plans to create a platform where kids under the age of 13 are encouraged to share content online is contrary to that interest," the officials wrote in a letter dated 10 May 2021.
The attorneys general were sceptical that a child has the ability to properly handle social media-centric problems such as cyberbullying, mental and physical distress caused by social comparison online as well as safety and privacy violations.
Ignoring the criticism it drew, Facebook shared that it will push through with the app, which was reportedly named Instagram Youth. The kid-friendly platform will be monitored by parents and guardians.
Facebook added that it will discourage people below 13 from lying about their age. The company is developing artificial intelligence that will help identify and delete underage accounts on its platform.
"We've developed technology that allows us to estimate people's ages, like if someone is below or above 18. 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'," Facebook stated in a blog post published on 27 July 2021.
Aside from that, Facebook keeps track of a user's indicated age and applies the information to the other social networks it owns such as Instagram. This will ensure that a person’s stated age will be consistent across different platforms.
To protect young users' safety, Instagram announced on 17 March that it implemented a feature preventing adults from directly messaging minors who do not follow them.
Instagram revealed that it is making accounts belonging to users under 16 private by default. According to the photo-sharing app, 20% of young people involved with the feature’s testing opted out of the private account settings when they registered for a profile.
Written by Sophia Lopez