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Instagram to restrict adults from sending unwanted Direct Messages to minors

Instagram attempts to make its platform safer for younger users. 
Instagram attempts to make its platform safer for younger users.  (Instagram)

The Facebook-owned service says it is blocking adults from messaging any teenager that does not follow them - and using machine learning to better understand users ages. 

Moderating content and making sure users -especially minors- are safe is an important aspect of any social media platform’s day to day operations, and the same is true for Instagram, arguably the biggest image sharing social media network in use today. The company on Tuesday announced new policies aimed at protecting teenagers on the platform.

In a blog post titled “Continuing to Make Instagram Safer for the Youngest Members of Our Community”, the Facebook-owned service announced that it was blocking adults from sending Direct Messages to any teenager that does not follow them. If a teenager does follow an adult receives a message from them, the company has put more safety mechanisms in place.

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Instagram will now warn teens to be cautious while they talk to adults they are already in contact with on the platform. This will include safety notices (in the form of banners) inside the app that will warn users about an adult that has been “exhibiting potentially suspicious behaviour”, such as sending a large number of message requests to other minors.

“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,” the company said on its blog, adding that some unspecified countries would see the feature roll out this month.

The company also said it will restrict adults who have been exhibiting potentially suspicious behaviour from seeing new minor’s accounts in 'Suggested Users', Reels or Explore. It will also automatically hide their comments on public posts by teens. The company will also push minors and younger users to opt for a private profile by explaining all the benefits involved.

Read more: WhatsApp could add support for Instagram Reels

Of course, all of these features are pretty useless if teens lie about their age when they sign up to bypass the 13-year minimum requirement, so the company has announced it would use machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to figure out what a users age was, to protect them on the platform. It has added that these changes are required keeping in mind the fact that it is adding end-to-end encryption for all its chat platforms in the future, which also includes Instagram Direct Messages.

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