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Instagram is making accounts for users under 16 private by default

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It’s also limiting how advertisers can target young people

Facebook is making Instagram safer for young people while developing Instagram for under-13s.
Image: Instagam

Facebook-owned Instagram is introducing changes designed to make the app safer for young people. From now on, anyone signing up to the service who’s under the age of 16 (or under 18 in certain countries) will have their account set to private by default, though the option to switch to public will still be available. Anyone under these ages with a public account now will be sent a notification encouraging them to switch to private.

Instagram has been edging toward making private accounts default for young people for a while. In March, it started showing young people signing up to Instagram a message extolling the virtues of having a private account. Now, it’s making private the default.

Facebook the company is also introducing changes to how advertisers can target users under the age of 18. Previously, any user could be targeted based on their interests and activity; information that Facebook collects from across the web, not just its own properties, analyzing individuals’ web browsing history, app usage, and the like. Now, advertisers will only be able to target under-18 users based on their age, gender, and location. This applies to users on Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook.

On Instagram, the company says it’s also doing more to limit how problematic users interact with users under 16 years old. The company says it’s able to identify “potentially suspicious behavior” from accounts. This means the account may have been recently blocked or reported by a younger person, for example. These suspicious users will be virtually separated from users under 16: they won’t be shown under-16 accounts in their Explore, Reels, or Accounts Suggested For You pages, nor will they see comments from users under 16 on others’ posts or be able to comment on content from users younger than 16.

“We are trying to figure out if an adult is exhibiting suspicious behavior,” Instagram’s head of public policy, Karina Newton, told NBC News. “The adult might not have broken the rules yet, but might be doing things that make us look at them more deeply.”

Instagram previously used its ability to identify suspicious accounts to warn teens when they received a direct message from one of these users. It also blocked adults from messaging teens who don’t already follow them.

At the same time as Facebook is trying to make Instagram safer and more private for teenagers, it’s still working on developing an app for kids under 13 (the current minimum age to sign up for Instagram). The plans were first reported by BuzzFeed News in March, and were met with widespread criticism and complaints.

Instagram’s Newton told NBC News that Instagram’s under-13 app was still being worked on and that the company was in “deep consultation with experts in child development and privacy advocates” to meet the “needs of families and youth.”

Said Newton: “We’re looking to build something that’s compelling for tweens and works for parents.”