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Wed 17 March 2021:

Instagram announced new policies on Tuesday that will restrict communications between teens and adults who do not already follow each other.

The photo-sharing social network will use a machine learning technology to better identify the age of its users and show safety prompts to kids to protect them from being targeted for harassment or grooming.

“To protect teens from unwanted contact from adults, we’re introducing a new feature that prevents adults from sending messages to people under 18 who don’t follow them,” a statement read.


Instagram’s Head of Global Policy Programs Carolyn Merrell said, the first prompt asks the young user whether they know this person. “If not, there are some things you can do to keep this conversation safe,” it says.

The safety notices tell the minor that they can secretly restrict, report or block the other person. The notices include the advice: “You don’t have to respond to messages that annoy you or make you feel uncomfortable” and “Be careful when sharing photos, videos or information with someone you don’t know.” 

The company said it will use “a new type of artificial intelligence to determine who is an adult vs. a minor.” 

“We ask for age when you first sign on, we also rely on reporting tools – so if you see someone’s that’s not 13, you can report and we’ll take that account down. And we’re using machine learning to look at behavioral signals of how old someone is to make sure we’re also getting ahead of that,” Merrell explained. 

The app will alert teens when an adult flagged for “potentially suspicious behavior” is contacting them. An example of such behavior is sending a large amount of friend or message requests to those under 18.

The Facebook-run app plans to introduce more features in the coming weeks to make it more difficult for adults to interact with teens, including hiding teen accounts in the “suggested users” selection.

Instagram has updated its parents guide to include the new safety features. Child Mind Institute partnered with Instagram to create the guidance on setting online boundaries for children. 




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