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Instagram Moves to Protect Minors, Blocks Unsolicited Contact

Instagram, the photo and video sharing social network, is now blocking direct messaging between teens and adults, in a move the company says protects privacy and keeps people safe.

The new feature relies on Instagram’s ability to predict users’ ages using machine learning technology, and the age people give it when they sign up.

“As we move to end-to-end encryption, we’re investing in features that protect privacy and keep people safe without accessing the content of DMs,” says Instagram in a blog.

“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. For example, when an adult tries to message a teen who doesn’t follow them, they receive a notification that DM-ing them isn’t an option.”

The Facebook-owned company said it requires everyone to be at least 13 to use Instagram and has asked new users to provide their age when they sign up for an account.

Instagram said: “While many people are honest about their age, we know that young people can lie about their date of birth. We want to do more to stop this from happening, but verifying people’s age online is complex and something many in our industry are grappling with.

“To address this challenge, we’re developing new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help us keep teens safer and apply new age-appropriate features.”

Commenting on the new Instagram feature, Lucy Thomas, co-founder of Project Rockit, a global organisation that deals with bullying, said: “Around the world it’s widely understood that most social media platforms require a 13-year minimum age requirement, but the complexity of age verification remains a long-standing, industry-wide challenge.

“That’s why it’s positive to see Instagram investing in innovative technologies that can and will create a safer online environment for younger users. By using machine learning to flag potentially inappropriate interactions, improving teen privacy features and DM-ing younger users with real-time safety info, Instagram is equipping young people with tools to be the architects of their own online experience.”

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