Influencers may soon have to place a warning on their retouched images

The new legislation would also result in stricter regulations for cosmetic surgeries, like lip filler.

In an effort to combat the seemingly inescapable unrealistic beauty standards on social media, the UK put forward a bill for a logo to be displayed on digitally altered images of bodies. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to know if your favourite influencer is truly the gold standard of beauty you once revered, or if it’s all a facade, but surely there will be no hiding when there’s a logo slapped on those FaceTuned selfies?

Norway recently made waves across the world following their forward-thinking approach to social media, making it illegal for influencers to not disclaim when a paid post on their social media was retouched. 

The bill is still awaiting its second reading as of April 2022. However, Health and Social Care Committee MPs have rallied for the government to implement new laws to reduce the unrealistic body expectations impacting Gen Z. Could we be seeing the downfall of the influencer right before our eyes?

The committee wants to feature wider and more inclusive body aesthetics and they also want influencers to no longer upload filtered or unrealistic images to social media. They’re also calling for regulation on the promotion of cosmetic services such as lip fillers. The MP’s are hoping to introduce medical and mental health checks for customers as well as offering a 48-hour “cooling off” period, allowing them to change their minds.

The NHS has seen hospital admissions for anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders in under 17’s rise by 41% between April and October 2021. The rise has largely been attributed to all those hours we spent glued to our screens during the pandemic, where we probably saw influencers more than our own parents.

“Social media has always been a go-to medium for connecting people, however, it is also linked to causing increased body dysmorphia, depression and other mental health disorders for users,” Dr Omar Tillo, cosmetic surgeon and founder of the Creo Clinic, tells HUNGER. “As technology develops and people spend more time online, viewers are more and more exposed to the harmful effects of these platforms. Not only do they blur the lines of reality, where it seems impossible to live up to the world we see online, but, it also promotes unhealthy comparisons. This bill is essential, as it will help tackle unhealthy and unrealistic deceptions of the way we look, which is often driven by social media.’’

”This is a topic that I personally support and have strong feelings about. In my day-to-day practice, I see its effects on the young generations and the pressure social media is creating on mostly the young and vulnerable,” he adds.

Dr Luke Evans, a GP turned Tory MP, proposed the Digitally Altered Body Image Bill in January this year. “If someone has been paid to post a picture on social media which they have edited, or advertisers, broadcasters or publishers are making money from an edited photograph, they should be honest and upfront about it,” Dr Evans told the House of Commons. It would work similarly to how influencers must now legally state when their posts are part of a partnership with a brand.

The legislation specifically focuses on paid posts meaning digitally-altered pictures on social media that aren’t for commercial purposes won’t need to display a logo. “This isn’t about stopping you touching up your wedding photos or removing red eye on a post, it is targeted at those with significant, far-reaching influence and those with commercial intent,” Dr Evans added in his Ten Minute Rule Motion, a speech made to parliament after Prime Minister’s Questions. 

So, will the legislation really be doing all that much? While it would be unfair to put restrictions on minor digital altering, only including it on branded posts is just a tiny step towards body positivity. The logo on paid partnerships would almost certainly be lost amongst a sea of endlessly filtered selfies that would see no regulation at all. While the intentions are unquestionably good, what is the point if only a small percentage of these unrealistic images are flagged?

WriterChris Saunders
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