Dear Twitter: Don’t age gate me, I can follow a beer company if I want to

dear twitter snapchat facebook rest internet age gating stupid gate bud light

Twitter recently introduced a revamped age-verification system to deter underage users from following the accounts of alcohol brands. So if a 17-year-old wants to see what Bud Light has to say on Twitter (which, honestly, not sure why that would be something they’d want to do, but OK) they will now be confronted with an adult verification system asking for their date of birth before they’re allowed to follow. Twitter compares the age entered to the legal drinking age of the Twitter user’s country, and bars users from following the alcoholic brand if they’re under the limit.

What Twitter doesn’t do is take any measures to make sure the user isn’t lying. There isn’t some special program matching your Twitter handle to your social security card. It’s the digital equivalent of using a trust system at a bar, where a blind bouncer simply asks the people in line what their age is. It’s extremely easy to circumvent. In fact, it’s so easy to circumvent that it’s actually kind of insulting that Twitter thinks this age gate will stop anyone from accessing content. If a bar actually employed a blind bouncer who took each prospective customer at their word instead of checking their ID, it would get closed down, because it’d become a hub for underage drinking.

I told Twitter I was born in 1941 in order to follow the Bud Light account, and I’m six haggard years over the legal drinking age in the U.S. Twitter didn’t think it was weird that an old-ass lady is a social media blogger who constantly makes Kanye West jokes, which verifies my suspicion that the company does absolutely no follow-up investigation to confirm ages entered. 

(Also, Bacardi’s version of an age gate is simply putting “You agree that you are 21 years of age or older to interact with BACARDI on Twitter” as the company bio, which is precious.) 

Underage people might not have life experience from which to draw wisdom and/or understand that life is not a box of YOLOs, but they’re fully capable of putting in a false age on social media websites. The age gates on social media aren’t real barriers — they’re flimsy ways to ameliorate critics concerned that these platforms aren’t all-ages appropriate. And somehow, they’re considered a way to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which is actual foolishness, but I’ll get to that in a minute. 

This isn’t just Twitter’s problem. The “age gating works” delusion has spread across all sorts of digital platforms, which is unfortunate because age gates don’t work. Just look at Snapchat’s “child-friendly” iteration, SnapKidz — it safeguards Snapchat for children under 13 … but only if they choose to accurately enter their age. If some wee saint of a tween accurately enters their age when they’re setting up Snapchat, it will turn into a neutered version. But their less honest contemporaries with the know-how to type in the wrong age will have no such protections from dick pics from strangers. 

Again: age gates don’t work, and there’s no use pretending they do. But companies are still going to continue putting them up and pretending like they’re helpful, and I can’t blame them. COPPA considers age gating a way of complying, which can help platforms like Twitter and the brands that use it avoid getting in trouble. But age gates that are as bogus as Bacardi and Bud Light’s Twitter barriers shouldn’t be considered any sort of deterrent to keep underage people away. A precocious six year old could be tweeting at them for all they know. So the people revising COPPA need to smarten up. 

It’s a tricky situation for social networks and brands that want to use them — some material and social features aren’t necessarily appropriate for all ages, but it’s really easy to lie on the Internet. I’m not saying that’s not a problem. But unless they devise a way to actually verify someone’s age, it’s insulting to consumers to pretend like age gating does a damn thing. It would be a much more useful gesture to take the money that went into setting up these foolish “precautions” and use it to fund digital literacy lessons for young people. And obviously COPPA is well-intentioned — I’m all for protecting the privacy of children — but pretending age gates are a legitimate way to do so isn’t helping anyone. 

Home Theater

I’ve seen the 8K TV future, and you should be excited. Here’s why

Samsung set the tech world on fire when it announced it would sell an 85-inch 8K TV in the U.S. along with several 8K screen sizes in Europe. Debates over the validity and value of such a high resolution have continued since, and we're here…
Emerging Tech

Ekster 3.0 lets you ask, ‘Alexa, where did I leave my wallet?’

Ekster's newest smart wallet is its best yet. It's slimmer than ever, boasts a neat card-dispensing mechanism, and will even let you know where it is, thanks to smart speaker integration.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make an animated GIF

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.
Social Media

Instagram says its A.I. can track down bullying in photos

Instagram is turning to artificial intelligence to help it root out bullying on its platform. Following similar efforts to target bullying in comments, the company now has systems capable of detecting bullying in photos, too.
Social Media

Snapchat is using VR to let you step inside its new original shows

Tuning in to your favorite shows not enough? Snap Originals will allow viewers to set into a virtual set. The new exclusive shows debut today with three different shows. Snap Originals are vertical, short, and exclusive to the platform.
Social Media

3D Facebook photos jump out of the newsfeed, no glasses needed

You're not seeing things -- that photo in your Facebook newsfeed is 3D. Launching today, 3D Facebook Photos use the depth maps from dual-lens smartphones to add dimension to an image as you move your phone.
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?
Computing

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Mobile

Hinge's new feature wants to know who you've gone out on dates with

With its new "We Met" feature, Hinge wants to learn how your dates are going with matches in its app. That way, it can inject the information into its algorithm to provide future recommendations that better suit its users' preferences.
Social Media

Like a pocketable personal stylist, Pinterest overhauls shopping tools

Pinterest shopping just got a bit better with a trio of updates now rolling out to Pinterest. The first replaces Buyable Pins with Product Pins for more features, including knowing whether or not a product is in stock.
Smart Home

Facebook’s new Portal device can collect your data to target your ads

Facebook confirmed that its new Portal smart displays, designed to enable Messenger-enabled video calls, technically have the capability to gather data on users via the camera and mic onboard.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.