Instagram makes sharing birthdays mandatory, to use AI to detect users’ age

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Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram has made it mandatory for users to add their birthdays to their profiles on the app. The move comes close on the heels of Facebook’s recent announcement that the company won’t allow advertisers targeting anything other than age and location for showing ads to minors. It also said that adults won’t be allowed to contact users under the age of 18 years without their permission.

“This information allows us to create new safety features for young people, and helps ensure we provide the right experiences to the right age group,” the company said in a blog post. “This information also allows us to personalize your experience, for example, we can apply recent changes we made to restrict advertiser targeting options for audiences under the age of 18, to more people. It also helps us show you more relevant ads,” it added.

The company said it will start showing a notification that asks users for their birthdays when they open the Instagram app. The notification will only appear for users whose birthdays aren’t already added. “We’ll show you a notification a handful of times and if you haven’t provided us with your birthday by a certain point, you’ll need to share it to continue using Instagram. This information is necessary for new features we’re developing to protect young people,” the post says.

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Further, posts that appear with age warnings will also require users to enter their birthdays before they can see the post. The company puts such screens on posts that may depict violence, gore etc.

Facebook also said that it’s “developing new systems” to address users who may give the company the wrong birthday in order to get past the filters. “As we shared recently, we’re using artificial intelligence to estimate how old people are based on things like “Happy Birthday” posts. In the future, if someone tells us they’re above a certain age, and our technology tells us otherwise, we’ll show them a menu of options to verify their age. This work is still in the early stages, and we look forward to sharing more soon,” it said in the blog post.

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