Facebook and Instagram Making Operational Changes to Crackdown on Underage Children

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Facebook and Instagram are making changes to investigate accounts of underage users and will further require them to provide proof such as a government issued photo identification that they are over 13 years of age.

Earlier, the policy was to investigate only the accounts that were specifically reported to belong to underage users. The new change will allow moderators to proactively lock the accounts which they suspect to be of underage users.

The moderators will also lock accounts if they are discovered by them or reported of posting objectionable content or something else. The users have to provide a proof of their age to continue using their accounts. The problem arises from Facebook not requiring any proof of age during the signup. Tougher rules could mean Facebook and Instagram losing a share of their advertising revenues.

The company’s earlier hands-off approach allowed even those below the age of 13 to hook to the app so that they will have already build a social graph and a history of content that anchors them to Facebook. While Instagram is still popular with many tweens and even underage users, Facebook seems to have lost a lot of cache with most of the young users overtime as their parents joined the network.

The change comes after U.K. based Channel Four and Firecrest Films reported in a documentary that a journalist turned Facebook content reviewer claimed that they instructed to ignore any users who they’d suspect to be under the age of 13. The report further shed light about how some political groups were subjected to an altogether different threshold of deletion when compared to other Facebook Pages and accounts if they posted any hateful content or were found to be violating the policies of Facebook.

Facebook also published a blog post recently saying registered political parties and high-profile Facebook Pages may receive another layer of review from its employees. However, Facebook again noted that they have been working on updating the guidance for reviewers to put a hold on any account if they believed that it belonged to underage users even if the report belonged to something else.

This does not mean that Facebook is going for a clean slate with underage users but that it will stop ignoring such accounts as and when it comes across them. Facebook restricts users under the age of 13 to comply with the U.S. Child Online Privacy Protection Act which requires the consent of the parents to collect any data from children.