Instagram is testing out a trial in which it scans users' faces for proof they are over 18 years old

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Instagram is testing out a trial in which it scans users' faces for proof they are over 18 years old
Instagram said on Thursday it was turning to a new method to verify users' ages: scanning their faces in videos.Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Instagram said it's trying out new ways to verify users' ages, including scanning their faces.
  • Alternatively, users can also have three friends vouch for their age or upload images of their IDs.
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Instagram is testing out new ways to verify users' ages, including scanning their faces.

The company announced the trial, which began on June 23 and is currently only being rolled out in the US, in a blog post. The trial is focused on users who try to change their age on the app from under 18 to over 18. Those users have three ways to verify their age: upload a photo of their ID, ask three mutual friends verify their age, or record a video selfie.

If a user selects the video selfie method, Instagram passes the videos to a London-based identity-verification startup, Yoti. Yoti will scan the user's facial features in the videos to confirm their ages, the company said.

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Both Yoti and Instagram will delete the data once they've verified the user's age, per the announcement. The London startup's algorithm only verifies the user's age and not their identity, Instagram wrote, quoting a whitepaper from Yoti.

Instagram said the process will allow it to offer age-appropriate content for its users.

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"Understanding someone's age online is a complex, industry-wide challenge. We want to work with others in our industry, and with governments, to set clear standards for age verification online," the company wrote in the blog post.

If a user chooses to submit a photo of their ID to confirm their age, the image will be deleted after 30 days, the company said.

Instagram has come under fire from parents and critics who say the company exposes minors to harmful content. In 2019, Instagram started checking users' ages to prevent people under the age of 13 from creating accounts. In August, it started asking existing users to provide their birthdays. And in September, Facebook — which owns Instagram has since been renamed Meta — suspended the launch of Instagram Kids, a version of the app it had been building for children under the age of 13.

Other social media companies have also been scanning users' faces to bar minors from using their platforms. French social-networking site Yubo said in May it was partnering with Yoti to capture images of users' faces to identify minors. China's Tencent said in January that it would study users' faces when they log on in order to limit children's gaming time on its platform.

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