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Facebook’s 10 Year Challenge Goes Viral Again, Is There A Dark Side?

For the last few years, a viral challenge on Facebook has called for users to upload their “10 Year Challenge” to the social media site using a current photo and a picture from 10 years before. The challenge is popular for showing off how much, or how little, the user has aged and for the nostalgic feeling of looking back at the trends and styles of the last decade. Some, however, have accused the social media giant of using the challenge for far more nefarious reasons. 

What Is The ’10 Year Challenge?’

It’s not just on Facebook that the “10 Year Challenge” has gone viral. For the last three years, social media users on Twitter and Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook, have uploaded side-by-side comparison photos of themselves now versus 10 years ago. The practice first took off in 2019 and ever since, it’s been impossible to escape. Even then, some noted the sinister way the giant social media platforms could use that information for profit. 

A reporter for Wired, Kate O’Neill, tweeted about the phenomenon, “Me 10 years ago: probably would have played along with the profile picture aging meme going around on Facebook and Instagram,” adding, “Me now: ponders how all this data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition.” In response to detractors who responded to her original tweet, O’Neill tweeted out the ways that social media companies can take advantage of the seemingly organic challenge. 

Even More In-Depth Info

O’Neill followed up her viral Twitter thread with a piece on Wired, where she went into even further detail about the ways social media companies could use this challenge to train facial recognition bots. She wrote, in part, “In other words, it would help if you had a clean, simple, helpfully labeled set of then-and-now photos.” 

With users labeling their photos and even adding years and ages to boot, this is a boon to facial recognition software. She continues, “In other words, thanks to this meme, there’s now a very large dataset of carefully curated photos of people from roughly 10 years ago and now.”

It’s currently unclear whether these social media giants are using facial recognition software with these challenges to create a database of facts about users, so as O’Neill wisely said, there’s no point in panicking. It’s just one more thing to keep in mind while using social media.


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