Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram are planning to start enforcing their under-13 user age policy in a more proactive manner, the social media giant told TechCrunch. Ever since its public launch in 2006, Facebook required its users to be at least 13 years old before signing up for an account but hasn't required any proof-of-age documentation during registration and only investigated underage users if their profiles were specifically reported for breaking that rule. Earlier this week, the company opted for a new policy change that will allow its reviewers to proactively block accounts they suspect are operated by users under 13 for any reason.
Anyone who has their account blocked as part of the new enforcement policy will only be able to regain access to it by providing Facebook with valid proof-of-age documentation, with the same applying to Instagram users as well. The policy change is believed to have been made in response to an undercover report organized by British Channel 4 and Firecrest Films whose reported became a third-party content reviewer for Facebook in Dublin, Ireland. While being employed by CPL Resources, the reporter was told to ignore users whose appearance implies their under 13 so long as they aren't provided with an admission. "We just like to pretend that we are blind," one official told them.
The move may have a small impact on Facebook's user numbers and revenue figures, though the vast majority of the company's users aren't believed to be violating its age policy. The rule itself was originally implemented so as to keep Facebook in compliance with the U.S. Child Online Privacy Protection Act of 2000, a legislation that the firm previously lobbied against. It's still unclear how the company intends to go about handling accounts that were created while their owners were under 13 but are now legal adults, though it most likely doesn't have any plans to sanction those profiles. The world's largest social media platform recently also came under fire for its decision to launch Messenger Kids specifically targeting pre-teens.