Instagram will now verify that users are at least 13 years old before allowing them to create an account, in an effort to make the platform safer for young people.
Starting December 3rd, during sign up, users will need to input their birthday in order to prove their age. However, the company will not inspect existing accounts belonging to existing users.
Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has never asked for verification of age, despite its terms of service indicating that users must be 13 or over to use the app.
The platform is also making efforts to build age-appropriate experiences based on a user's birthday. Instagram stated in a blog post that it'll create "more tailored experiences, such as education around account controls and recommended privacy settings for young people".
It'll also strengthen message privacy, giving users the option to only receive direct messages and be added to group conversations from and by people they follow.
Snakin' the law
Instagram's previous pirouette around age verification has allowed it to dodge the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA law bans platforms from collecting data pertaining to children under 13 - but Instagram's lack of age-checking leaves the ages of its one billion users essentially open to interpretation.
Social apps such as Snapchat, TikTok, and sister-site Facebook require a user to enter their date of birth before signing up. Despite this, TikTok received an eye-watering fine earlier this year for violating COPPA laws.
Video platform YouTube also received a much larger fine for similar transgressions, and was ordered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to re-evaluate how it distributes and monetises content aimed towards children.
While age-verification for new accounts is a positive move towards protecting children on its platform, Instagram has still turned a blind eye towards any existing accounts that may be operating against its own terms of service, leaving potentially millions of underage users still exposed to harm.