The next time you try to follow an alcohol company or other brand with age-restricted products who has opted in to Twitter’s new “Age Screening” system, you’ll be required to submit your age, and won’t be allowed to follow if you’re too young. Nothing will change about who you already follow, but you’ll be sent a DM with a link to submit your age upon your first new follow of an adult brand, and your age will then gate your future follows of brands who’ve signed up for age screening.
Buddy Media built the product in a partnership with Twitter after alcohol brands requested the microblogging service add the feature to protect them from legal scrutiny. Oddly though, adult brands can still advertise sweet, sweet booze, gambling, and pharmaceuticals to minors on Twitter.
Twitter doesn’t ask users their age when they sign up and tells me it had no plans to do so, so it worked with Buddy Media to create this age screening product quickly. Until a brand registers, there are no restrictions on who can follow it.
Here’s the flow all users will go through the first time they follow a brand who has opted in to Age Screening:
When you click Follow on a brand who has opted in:
You’ll be sent a Direct Message with a link to the age submission page:
…Where you are asked to submit your age:
If you’re old enough in the geographic area defined by your IP address your follow will go through:
Otherwise it will be rejected:
Twitter will then use the age you submitted to allow or prevent you from following other adult brands. You won’t be allowed to resubmit your age immediately, for example to say “Oh, I entered that I’m 17 and got denied. Let me put in 25″. However, after some undisclosed amount of time you’ll be allowed another shot in case you made a mistake.
Twitter won’t go snooping to confirm you age, though. Guy Yalif, head of product marketing at Twitter tells me “We are trusting users to input their valid birth date. We have no plans to self identiy their valid birthdate or cross refence this with third-party data.”
For comparison, Facebook has its own age-gating system that automatically employs the birthdate users are required to give when signing up for the service to prohibit both marketing and advertising of adult products to those too young according to local law.
Facebook Pages can use set one global age restriction, or categorize themselves as “alcohol-related” to set the minimum age to correspond with each country’s rules. Anyone barred won’t be able to see a Page in search, on friends’ profiles, or view its content.
Brands who want some legal shielding can go to the Buddy Media tool and register themselves. They can then select the minimum age of their followers in geographic regions across the globe. To make it especially easy for alcohol brands, Buddy Media has indexed the minimum age to drink for all countries and lets brands set these ages as follow requirements with one click.
Beyond alcohol brands, gambling companies and pharmaceuticals makers may end up using the age screening tool.
Vice and drug brands may now be willing to pour more money into Twitter ads, knowing any new followers scored will have at least said they’re old enough to get take a shot, pop a pill, and roll the dice.
Update: This article originally stated that Facebook Pages aren’t age-restricted when they actually are. That error has been corrected with an explanation of Facebook’s age-gating system.
Created in 2006, Twitter is a global real-time communications platform with 400 million monthly visitors to twitter.com, more than 200 million monthly active users around the world. We see a billion tweets every 2.5 days on every conceivable topic. World leaders, major athletes, star performers, news organizations and entertainment outlets are among the millions of active Twitter accounts through which users can truly get the pulse of the planet.