Press Release: Instagram, We demand better protections!

Children’s Online Protection Group DEFEND Says Instagram’s New Platform for Kids /Protections Not Enough

TORONTO, Ontario, March 21, 2021 — Today, DEFEND, a Canadian-based nonprofit organization striving to reduce risks for children and vulnerable people online, commented on Facebook’s announcement that Facebook-owned Instagram is planning to expand its user base, to children under 13. 

Facebook confirmed a report by Buzzfeed News on Friday, March 18, saying they have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and want to develop an Instagram app for children under 13. Earlier in the week Instagram officially announced measures it may or has taken to stop adults from contacting unknown kids online. 

Critics, including DEFEND are concerned saying this is just a way for Facebook to expand its user base and get children accustomed to using its products with the aim of making profits.

“DEFEND has examined these proposed actions by Instagram and we feel they don’t go far enough,” said DEFEND chair Romaine Bonghanya. “They allow a child to dictate who can communicate with them. Children 13 and younger still require adult supervision and should not be the ones making this choice. “

She continued, “If Instagram wants to truly make its platform safer for younger users, we suggest Facebook take immediate steps to age and ID verify everyone on their platforms. They should not rely on machine learning to determine their safety.”

Age/ID verification is in place in Canada currently, using bank accounts to verify a person’s identity. The Canada Revenue Agency, in fact, uses this technology. 

“Everyone, including children, can obtain a bank account,” said Bonghanya. “Once we accurately and transparently verify people’s real identity, then children can truly have a safe place online. This would greatly minimize the risk of adults contacting children to create child porn, for example.”

DEFEND created an online petition for the purpose of requiring age/ID verification for all social media platforms. The group has support from more than 9000 people across the world and is encouraging all concerned adults to sign it.

“We can say with great certainty that if we had age/ID verification for everyone online, then the world would be a safer place,” said Bonghanya. “People would not be sharing child porn or intimate images on Facebook’s platforms without consent and we believe online bullying would be significantly reduced.”

DEFEND is a non-profit organization that is solely run by volunteers. 

DEFEND aims to:

  • Educate the public about potential online risks 
  • Advocate for children, by various calls to action including its petition 
  • Protect children by demanding the Canadian/US governments legislate age/ID verification on all social media platforms

Currently DEFEND is run by 19 professionals across the world. Some are parents, who are very concerned about their children’s safety using social media.

To be proactive DEFEND is currently working with their Tech Team to develop a new social media platform which will have age and ID verification built in from the ground up in case the petition fails. 

For more information, please contact:

Romaine Bonghanya, Chair of DEFEND

DEFEND’s petition:

Educate. Advocate. Protect.