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Instagram Now Asks for Your Birthday for Age Verification, Will Introduce New Privacy Tools

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Facebook’s Instagram said it will require birthdates from all new users starting on Wednesday, expanding the audience for ads for alcohol and other age-restricted products while offering new safety measures for younger users.

Until now, Instagram except for limited circumstances has required its 1 billion users only to say they are at least 13 years old.

Instagram said advertisers were not the driving force for the new requirement. Gambling and birth control are among other types of ads restricted to older audiences by Instagram policies and laws.

The policy change could help stave off passage of costly child safety and data privacy regulations as lawmakers and family safety groups in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere criticise the app for exposing children to inappropriate material.

The birthdate requirement is the latest step Instagram has taken to move away from longstanding principles such as anonymity that had distinguished it from Facebook’s namesake app.

“Understanding how old people are is quite important to the work we’re doing, not only to create age-appropriate experiences but to live up to our longstanding rule to not allow access to young people,” Instagram’s head of product Vishal Shah said in an interview with Reuters.

He declined to specify age-based features in testing, but said age could be the basis for recommended privacy settings or in-app education about staying safe online. Birthdates will not be visible to other users.

In addition, Instagram will introduce in the coming weeks options for users to block messages from people they do not follow and for both businesses and popular users who are known as “creators” to more easily restrict minors from viewing their posts, Shah said.

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Scrutiny of Instagram increased as it overtook Facebook’s main app in popularity among teens and young adults and became a leading contributor to Facebook’s revenue growth.

No verification
Instagram will not verify birthdates because teens often cannot prove their age, and it will still be left without birthdays of some existing users. Instagram expects most people will be honest about birthdates and said artificial intelligence could eventually aid verification.

Jeffrey Chester, who focuses on kids’ safety issues at the Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy, described Instagram’s new policy as “long overdue” to come in step with US laws aimed at preserving the online privacy of children under 13.

But the London-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said asking for “an unverifiable date of birth will do nothing in practice to protect children from harmful or age-inappropriate content.”

Until now, Instagram required birthdates only in limited circumstances.

Users who had merged their Instagram profile and Facebook account, which requires a birthdate to create, turned over the data. Minors in the European Union over the last 18 months also had to submit birthdates so the company could comply with the region’s new data privacy law, known commonly as GDPR.

The existing birthdays, along with some rough analysis by workers poring over posts mentioning “happy birthday” and other terms, has helped Instagram train machine learning software that predicts a user’s age and gender.The automated prediction also takes into account the variety of posts someone makes and the hashtags used.

Instagram employs its predictions to understand usage patterns by age and gender. But Shah said Instagram is reluctant to use predictions to personalise features or determine whether someone is lying about their age because of reliability and transparency concerns.

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The forthcoming birthdate data will help improve accuracy, Shah said.

“It’s important for us to use people’s explicit (birthdate) input for now, but that might change,” he said.

Current users who have not linked their Instagram and Facebook accounts will be able to add their birthdates starting Wednesday, but the company is still debating whether it would be too intrusive to make it mandatory, Shah said. Instagram knows whether some of those users are adults, for instance, because it asks them to say so before looking at profiles of alcohol and sexually explicit businesses.

© Thomson Reuters 2019

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters

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Facebook Instagram and TikTok are launching new features to encourage people to get their coronavirus booster jabs.

From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.

It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.

TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.

I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones

More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.

People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.

A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said:  “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.

“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.

“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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How many hashtags should you use to get the most ‘Likes’ on Instagram?

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Hashtags are a key feature of Instagram posts. In fact, they have become an essential means of ensuring more ‘Likes’ on social media – so long as you choose them wisely.

But how many hashtags should you use to maximise your popularity on the social network? The answer might surprise you.

It’s a question that many Instagram users ask themselves: what’s the right number of hashtags to add to a post? To find out, the Later platform analysed 18 million Instagram posts, excluding videos, Reels and Stories.

Interestingly, Later’s results differ from Instagram’s own recommendations. According to Later’s analysis, using more hashtags helps get better results in terms of “reach”, or the percentage of users exposed to the post. By using 20 hashtags, Later observed an optimal average reach rate of just under 36%. Using 30 hashtags gets the next-best reach rate. With five hashtags, reach hits just under 24%.

And while a post’s reach is important, engagement is even more so. From “Likes” and comments to shares and follows – on average, 30 hashtags appears to result in better engagement rates: “When it comes to average engagement rate, using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments,” says Later’s research.

Yet, at the end of September 2021, Instagram advised its creators to use between three and five hashtags for their posts, while warning them against using too many. The social network advised that using 10 to 20 hashtags per post “will not help you get additional distribution”.

For Later, there could be other reasons behind Instagram’s recommendations: “As Instagram continues to expand their discoverability and SEO tools, it makes sense that they want users to experiment with fewer, more relevant hashtags – this could help them accurately categorise and recommend your posts in suggested content streams, like the Instagram Reels feed or the updated hashtag search tabs,” the website explains. – AFP Relaxnews

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