In a bid to improve safety on its platform, Instagram plans to prevent the exchange of DMs between adults and under-18 teens who don’t follow each other.

Instagram will enforce this by improving its ability to identify a user’s age. The plan is to develop “new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology” to detect age when a new user signs up for an Instagram account. 

Instagram requires users to be at least 13 years old. But people lie about their ages so it is possible that a chat going on right now is between a 70-year old man and a 10-year old girl who don’t know each other. 

If that creeps you out, it means you understand why Instagram wants to limit adult-teen DMs.

Here’s Instagram’s explanation of how the proposed AI-enabled firewall will work:

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

The expectation is that the adult respectfully tries not to send another DM, choosing alternative means of communication if contact must be established (There may be valid reasons why an adult may want to cold-message a teenager, like brand collaborations. But yeah, ask a mutual adult friend to introduce you or something).

Instagram does not intend to shoulder this new safety initiative alone. It has revised its Parents Guides to encourage adult guidance of how teen’s use Instagram within homes. Instagram is also encouraging teen users of the app to not accept DM requests/messages from adults with questionable account activity.

On the second point, Instagram provides details:

“Safety notices in DMs will notify young people when an adult who has been exhibiting potentially suspicious behaviour is interacting with them in DMs. 

“For example, if an adult is sending a large amount of friend or message requests to people under 18, we’ll use this tool to alert the recipients within their DMs and give them an option to end the conversation, or block, report, or restrict the adult.”

Instagram will make it harder for these adults to find and follow teens on the app.

Teens will also now be encouraged to make their accounts private. If a teen chooses public mode, Instagram will let them have it but will still send nudges to switch to private by “highlighting the benefits of a private account and reminding them to check their settings.”

Instagram will roll this out in batches of countries but they don’t specify who will get it first. 

Alexander Onukwue | Author

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