Facebook and Instagram change to crack down on underage children
Facebook and Instagram will more proactively lock the accounts of users its moderators encounter and suspect are below the age of 13. Its former policy was to only investigate accounts if they were reported specifically for being potentially underage. But Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that an “operational” change to its policy for reviewers made this week will see them lock the accounts of any underage user they come across, even if they were reported for something else, such as objectionable content, or are otherwise discovered by reviewers. Facebook will require the users to provide proof that they’re over 13, such a government-issued photo ID, to regain access. The problem stems from Facebook not requiring any proof of age upon signup.
A tougher stance here could reduce Facebook and Instagram’s user counts and advertising revenue. The apps’ formerly more hands-off approach allowed them to hook young users so by the time they turned 13, they had already invested in building a social graph and history of content that tethers them to the Facebook corporation. While Facebook has lost cache with the youth over time and as their parents joined, Instagram is still wildly popular with them and likely counts many tweens or even younger children as users.
The change comes in response to an undercover documentary report by the U.K.’s Channel 4 and Firecrest Films that saw a journalist become a Facebook content reviewer through a third-party firm called CPL Resources in Dublin, Ireland. A reviewer there claims they were instructed to ignore users who appeared under 13, saying “We have to have an admission that the person is underage. If not, we just like pretend that we are blind and that we don’t know what underage looks like.” The report also outlined how far-right political groups are subject to different thresholds for deletion than other Pages or accounts if they post hateful content in violation of Facebook’s policies.