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Instagram trials AI tool to verify age of users

Users will be asked to send a video selfie to a British tech firm which will use AI to verify their age.

Image: DPA/PA Images

INSTAGRAM HAS SAID it is starting to trial a tool that relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to confirm the age of users in the US.

Lawmakers across the world have been vocal in demanding that the photo-sharing platform, owned by Facebook’s parent company Meta, protect young people from adult content and invasions of their privacy.

It’s a thorny issue that tech companies say is not easily solved, but could be tackled with broader technological changes like birthdates being tied to a person’s cell phone.

Meta announced testing of new verification tools for anyone trying to change their age from under 18 to over 18 on the platform, including recording a video selfie or asking friends to verify their age.

“We’re testing this so we can make sure teens and adults are in the right experience for their age group,” Meta said.

The video selfies will be sent to British tech firm Yoti, which has developed an AI tool that it says can work out the age of under-20s to within 1.5 years.

Though Yoti’s own data suggests its tool is generally worse at verifying the ages of women and girls, and people with darker skin.

Both Yoti and Meta said the selfies would be deleted after the check, and that “the technology cannot recognise your identity – just your age.”

The company is also trialling age verification via “social vouching”, where mutual followers confirm the age of a user.

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 to be eligible.

Last year, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri told US lawmakers he felt it was not Instagram’s job to check the age of users.

“I believe it would be much more effective to have age verification at the device level,” he said.

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He suggested parents should make sure the child’s phone knew the age “as opposed to having every app, and there’s millions of apps out there, trying to verify age on their own”.

Instagram was rocked last year by revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugen that suggested executives were aware the platform could harm the mental health of young people, particularly teenage girls.

It has since rolled out several features aimed at protecting younger users.

© AFP 2022</a

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