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Facebook Parent Meta Aims to Protect Teens From Messaging 'Suspicious' Adults

The social media giant updates privacy and safety tools meant to safeguard teens on Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram and Facebook logos on smartphones in front of the Meta logo
Meta owns Facebook and Instagram. 
Getty Images

Facebook parent company Meta is testing new features meant to make the social network and its photo-and-video service Instagram safer for teens.

On Monday, Meta outlined some of the new steps the social media giant is taking to prevent teens from messaging "suspicious" adults on Facebook and Instagram that a young person has blocked or reported. Meta said it won't recommend these suspicious accounts to teens and the company is also experimenting with getting rid of the message button on a teen's Instagram account when a suspicious adult views their profile.

The new tools could help safeguard teens from receiving inappropriate messages from adults. Online safety has been an ongoing concern on social networks, but politicians and advocacy groups have been putting pressure on Meta to do more to address this problem. The company also said it's trying to help teens who are worried that their intimate images will be used to exploit them and shared without their consent. 

"The non-consensual sharing of intimate images can be extremely traumatic and we want to do all we can to discourage teens from sharing these images on our apps in the first place," the company said in a blog post. Teaming up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Meta said it's building a global platform for teens to address this issue. The company also has online tips for teens if someone is asking them to send inappropriate or sexual photos or videos of themselves.

Meta said it's showing teens a safety notice on Facebook Messenger and Instagram that provides steps they can take against a suspicious account such as restricting, blocking and reporting a user. The notice also encourages users to report the accounts to Meta. In the first three months of this year, Meta said it saw a 70% increase in reports sent to the company by minors compared to the previous quarter.

When people younger than 16 years old, or under 18 years old in certain countries, join Facebook, the company said these users will have more private settings by default. Facebook allows users to limit who can see their friends list or accounts they follow along with other privacy features such as reviewing posts another user "tagged" them in before they appear on their profile. Last year, Instagram started to make accounts private for teens by default.