UPDATED 23:48 EDT / JULY 27 2021

POLICY

In push to protect kids, Facebook says it will now reduce ads for teens on all its platforms

Facebook Inc. announced today that it’s in the process of restricting advertisers from targeting people under the age of 18.

In the coming weeks, the company will ensure that advertisers won’t be able to base ads for people under 18 on their interests or their activity on other apps. These restrictions will be enforced on Instagram, Facebook and Messenger.

In the past, advertisers could target youngsters like they do anyone else, but Facebook now agrees that “young people may not be well equipped” to deal with their own ad settings. That contention was recently substantiated after reports surfaced that people as young as 13 were being targeted by alcohol companies in Australia.

“Compliance with the industry marketing code requirement for age-restriction controls is inconsistent among the largest alcohol companies operating in Australia,” said a report published in the journal Public Health Research and Practice published today. “The industry-managed regulatory system is not preventing children’s access to alcohol content on social networking sites.”

The change to targeted ads was part of a larger push to keep Facebook’s platforms safe for children. The company said in a blog post that from now on Instagram users under the age of 16 (18 in some countries) will have their account set to private by default when they join. Facebook said this is “to stop young people from hearing from adults they don’t know or don’t want to hear from.”

“Historically, we asked young people to choose between a public account or a private account when they signed up for Instagram, but our recent research showed that they appreciate a more private experience,” said Facebook. “During testing, eight out of ten young people accepted the private default settings during sign-up.”

The company also said that it has developed a new algorithm that can spot “suspicious behavior.” Such behavior could be an account owned by an adult that has been reported or blocked by a young person. Once that account has been flagged, it will no longer be able to see young folks’ accounts in Explore, Reels or Accounts Suggested. Even if they do find an account by searching for a user name, they won’t be able to follow them, comment or see young people’s comments.

These changes will take place first in the U.S., Australia, France, the U.K. and Japan, with others countries to follow.

Photo: Prateek Katyal/Unsplash

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