Today, Yoti and Instagram plan to announce a UK-wide facial age verification rollout.

A statement from Meta read: “We’ve required people to provide their date of birth when they sign up for Instagram for several years – and last year we prompted people who hadn’t already provided their date of birth to do so in order to keep using Instagram. It’s important to us to know how old people are so they can make sure they’re having the best possible experience on Instagram – one that’s appropriate for their age”.

Instagram is a popular social media app that has a high number of underage user accounts despite imposing minimum age restrictions that prevent children younger than 13 years setting an account. In some countries the minimum age varies.  In June, Instagram announced new ways to verify age – enabling them to provide more age-appropriate experiences. This included a partnership with Yoti for age verification technologies. Instagram also outlined plans to expand testing to additional countries including India and Brazil, as well as the UK which is expected to be confirmed in an announcement today.

In an update made in October, Instagram pledged to remove Social Vouching as an option to verify age in testing. Personal vouching is a process whereby up to 3 mutual followers aged 18 or over can confirm a new user’s age and suitability to be on Instagram.

Understanding people’s age on the internet is a complex and industry-wide challenge, especially in the age of social media, but one that Meta say they have been focused on for a while.

A spokesman said: “As an industry, we have to explore new ways to approach the dilemma of verifying someone’s age when they don’t have an ID (as many people, including teens, don’t) – and Monday’s announcement is an important part of that effort”.

The announcement is expected to offer a new way for people on Instagram to verify their identity in the UK, and confirm whether they are a teen or an adult so that only appropriate content for their age is available to them. It will also strengthen strict age verification to ensure that no child is at risk of viewing content from the platform.

From today, if someone attempts to edit their date of birth on Instagram from below 18 to 18 or over, they will be asked to verify their age by either uploading a form of identification or recording a video selfie. Yoti is the UK digital identity provider that is working closely with Meta and specialises in privacy-preserving ways to verify age.

Yoti is verified by the Age Check Certification Scheme, is the leading age verification provider for several industries around the world, and has been publicly endorsed by youth and privacy experts, and regulators including the German regulator KJM. A selfie image is securely shared with Yoti only to estimate the user’s age but this process does not leverage face recognition technology to recognise a person’s full identity. The image is deleted immediately after.

Julie Dawson, Chief Policy and Regulatory Officer at Yoti commented: “We are delighted to continue our work with Meta to create age-appropriate experiences and enable people to thrive and be safe online. Our facial age estimation is a privacy-preserving solution. We built it to give everyone a secure way to prove their age without sharing their name or an ID document”. “Today’s announcement is another step in the right direction to create safer online environments.”