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Facebook is moving forward with Instagram for kids despite backlash

By Alma Fabiani

Jul 28, 2021

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On Tuesday 27 July, Facebook reaffirmed its intention to build an Instagram for children under 13, despite pressure from lawmakers to back down on the plan. On the same day, the company also announced new updates to address concerns about the safety of young users on its platforms, Instagram more specifically.

In a blog post, Facebook said it is developing “a new Instagram experience for tweens” managed by parents and guardians as part of its efforts to “reduce the incentive for people under the age of 13 to lie about their age.”

“The reality is that they’re already online, and with no foolproof way to stop people from misrepresenting their age, we want to build experiences designed specifically for them, managed by parents and guardians,” the post read.

In March, BuzzFeed News obtained an internal Instagram memo stating the company had “identified youth work as a priority” and was planning to build a version specifically intended for kids. In May, 44 attorneys general signed a letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to scrap plans for an Instagram intended for younger users, citing mental health and privacy concerns. The letter came less than a month after child safety groups and Congress expressed similar concerns.

Facebook’s confirmation that it plans to go along with the development of an Instagram for kids, reportedly called Instagram Youth according to Bloomberg, was ‘hidden’ into an announcement around adding more safety measures to the popular photo-sharing platform. This will include setting the accounts of users under the age of 16 to private by default in order to cut down on unwanted interactions with strangers.

The company is also introducing changes to how advertisers can target users under the age of 18. Previously, any user could be targeted based on their interests and activity; information that Facebook collects from across the web, not just its own properties, analysing individuals’ web browsing history, app usage, and more. Now, advertisers will only be able to target under-18 users based on their age, gender, and location. This applies to users on Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook.

Facebook has long been criticised for how it enforces age restrictions across its platforms. Prior to 2019, it only asked users to confirm they were over the age of 13 and later required their date of birth during the registration process. As you can imagine, at the time, most underage users simply lied.

In a conversation on the Breakfast Club radio show Tuesday 27 July, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said he knew its Instagram for kids efforts would “get a lot of heat” but called it “the right thing to do, so we gotta do it.” Let’s wait and see, I guess.