The parent company of Facebook, Meta-owned Instagram, has expanded the trial phase of age verification on its platform to India. The introduction was made on 23 June.
This Thursday, Meta mentioned that the test to verify user age on the platform is being expanded to India and Brazil. The company would also be offering to a user that exists in the United Kingdom and European Union before the end of 2022.
Meta is going to facilitate several offers to its users in three ways to verify their age. The users that were selected in the trial phase can upload a government-approved identification document to verify their age. Alternatively, the users can also record a video selfie through the Instagram app. For this initiative, Meta will use differentiated technologies to verify the same. As per the plans of the Meta, there is a way for a user’s mutual friends to ‘vouch’ for the former’s age.
In the current situation, the image is not yet clear whether the move will tie into the union government’s 2021 regulation that proposed ‘voluntary verification’ of user identities on ‘significant’ social media intermediaries in India. The platform contains over 5 million registered users that are not active.
The option is currently available for the users of Instagram. The workability of the offer for the users of Facebook and WhatsApp is not yet approved.
In February 2021, the union government notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (or IT Rules, 2021). Under this law, Rule 4(7) states that significant social media intermediaries will enable users in the country “to voluntarily verify their accounts by using any appropriate mechanism that includes the active Indian mobile number of such users.”
In cases of voluntary verification, the platforms would be liable to offer a “demonstrable and visible mark of verification” to the users.
On 7 August, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, union minister of state for IT, showed a reminder at the Parliament that all social media intermediaries are required to offer this feature to their users. After two months after Chandrasekhar’s response in the Parliament, Instagram took a move to enable this test.
As per the statistics of the market researcher, as of January this year, Instagram and Facebook had roughly 230 million monthly active users, while WhatsApp had nearly 400 million.
For Instagram, India has the biggest market of users in terms of its geographical distribution.
The union government has a motive to enable the identification of verification of users across a gamut of services. It is seen that the Draft Telecom Bill proposed a penalty of ₹50,000 or one year of imprisonment for users who make utilization of fake identification documents for procuring a number.
Bringing over-the-top communication services such as WhatsApp, the Bill further stated that the penalty would be applicable even to users who “misrepresent” their identities on these platforms.