Facebook is reportedly planning to link the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger messaging services, allowing people to communicate across the three platforms. However, the move has raised plenty of questions.
One of these concerns minimum age requirements for users. In 2018, WhatsApp raised the minimum age requirement for users from 13 to 16 for people based in Europe.
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However, the minimum age limit for Instagram and Facebook (and therefore Facebook Messenger) users is 13.
According to The New York Times, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger will continue to operate as standalone apps, but “their underlying technical infrastructure will be unified”, and messages will be able to travel across platforms.
In other words, users of WhatsApp (minimum age requirement in Europe: 16) will be able to interact with users of Facebook Messenger and Instagram (minimum age requirement: 13), and vice versa.
Facebook has admitted it is still “figuring out all the details of how this will work”, but the company will surely need to introduce a minimum age requirement that’s consistent across WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook before tying the three products together.
Whether this means dropping the WhatsApp age limit to 13 everywhere or raising the Instagram and Facebook age limit to 16 remains to be seen.
Furthermore, if the latter scenario was to play out, what would happen to existing Instagram and Facebook users between the ages of 13 and 16? We won’t have long to wait to find out, as Facebook says it expects to finalise the merger either before the end of 2019 or in early 2020.
“We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private,” was the stock quote Trusted Reviews received from Facebook when we asked if the company was planning to make any changes to minimum age restrictions.
“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks. As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work.”
This week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on social media firms to do more to protect young users, reigniting a debate about whether or not minimum age requirements for social networks should be raised.
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Unfortunately, even if Facebook does raise minimum age requirements for Facebook and Instagram, all indications are that they’ll be relatively straightforward to circumnavigate.
How do you feel about Facebook’s merger plans? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.