Jan 9, 2024 - Technology

Facebook, Instagram will hide more sensitive content from teens, Meta says

A child holds an iPhone in a red case. The background is blurred.

A boy looks at an iPhone screen in December 2023 in Bath, England. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Meta will institute more protections for teenagers on Facebook and Instagram, the company announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: A lawsuit last year from more than half the country's attorneys general said Meta knowingly released products and features that harm teens' mental health.

Driving the news: Meta said Tuesday that it consulted with experts in youth mental health to come up with the new protections.

Details: Teens will be placed into the most restrictive content control settings on both social media platforms with additional controls, the company said, including:

  • Expanding the "Sensitive Content Control" on Instagram and "Reduce" on Facebook features, which make it more difficult for users to come across sensitive content, such as posts about self-harm or eating disorders. These controls were already in place for new teens who joined the platforms, and will now be rolled out to existing teen users.
  • Posts about sensitive content like self-harm will also be hidden from teens in their Feed and Stories, even if shared by someone they follow.
  • Prompting teens to update privacy settings on Instagram with a "turn on recommended settings" feature that will restrict who can repost their content and message them.

Zoom out: Meta says it's also hiding more sensitive or banned content for users of all ages, such as posts that include hate speech or child exploitation.

  • The company will limit content recommendations for posts that go against guidelines as well, including ones that are sexually suggestive or contain misinformation.

Background: Meta has received more than 1.1 million reports of users younger than 13 on its platforms since early 2019, according to unsealed allegations in the lawsuit from the 33 attorneys general, but "disabled only a fraction."

  • Instagram requires users to be at least 13 years old to create an account.
  • Congress has increased its scrutiny of Meta and other Big Tech companies recently when it comes to kids' online safety.
  • Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to appear voluntarily at a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing sometime this month.

Between the lines: Meta uses artificial intelligence to detect users lying about their self-reported ages, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

  • On Instagram, age verification tools are launched if a user tries to change their age from under 18 to over 18.
  • Meta has proposed federal legislation that would make age verification more simple via app stores.

Threat level: Experts have warned about the connection between heavy social media use and mental health issues in children and teens, who have reported near-constant use of social media.

Go deeper: Social media's effects on teen mental health come into focus

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about how Meta verifies ages.

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