Facebook is moving forward with Instagram for kids despite backlash

Facebook on Tuesday reaffirmed its intention to build an Instagram for kids under 13, despite pressure from lawmakers to back down on the plan, while simultaneously announcing new updates to address concerns about the safety of younger users on its platforms.

In a blog post, the company 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 said.

In May, 44 attorneys general signed a letter addressed to Facebook (FB) 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 plan to continue with the development of an Instagram for kids, reportedly called Instagram Youth, was tucked into an announcement around adding more safety measures to the popular photo-sharing platform. This includes setting the accounts of users under age 16 to private by default to cut down on unwanted interactions with strangers and limiting how advertisers target the demographic.

Facebook also said it plans to use artificial intelligence to verify the age of its users and remove underage accounts. For example, the tool would allow it to search for keywords in Instagram posts, such as a happy birthday message, and cross reference it with the user’s birth date registered on Facebook.

Facebook has long been criticized for how it enforces age restrictions across it 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.

“We plan to apply this technology across our apps to create more age-appropriate experiences and safety measures for young people,” said the blog post.

Facebook also said it plans to work with lawmakers, elected officials and child development and safety experts across its various efforts.

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