Social media giants including Facebook and Instagram are cracking down on content that endorses cosmetic surgery and quick weight loss products including lip fillers, neck lift and facelift procedures, as well as diet teas, lollies and pills. The move will see such products removed from the feeds of users under 18, while any procedures or products based on unsound science or unsupported by evidence will be banned from the platforms completely.
The decision, announced in September, is a major coup for campaigners, led by actress Jameela Jamil, who have long argued that the presence of advertising, imagery and filters designed to promote the desirability of both extreme weight loss and serious cosmetic surgery is damaging to young people’s mental health. The campaign has been widely supported by professionals from a variety of medical and psychological disciplines, from mental health workers to physicians, who cite wide trends in society that have seen young peoples’ satisfaction with their appearance plummet in recent years. Individual cases of people who have developed ‘snapchat dysmorphia’ and been driven to self-harm and suicide because of their low self-esteem have also been reported.
Facebook, which also owns the image-sharing platform Instagram, has come under particular criticism for helping to perpetuate the phenomenon. It’s also been accused of not doing enough to tackle the prevalence of advertising that targets specific age groups. This includes everything from news stories, celebrity endorsements and content to ‘body morphing’ apps that purport to ‘fix’ elements of a person’s physique that they are unhappy with, simulating how the individual would look with lip filler or a facelift and neck lift procedure.
Instagram has hit back at critics in recent times, arguing that it is attempting to foster a positive environment for everyone who wants to use the platform, and that it is combating the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of what they see on social media. The firm claims that it has never allowed direct advertising of weight loss or cosmetic procedures, but much of the bad press has been targeted at softer forms of influence such as celebrity endorsements and product placement that aims to place such products as part of a celebrity lifestyle. These new changes will take the fight against such content one step further, applying a test that will remove products that make unrealistic weight loss and cosmetic claims entirely from the platforms, while the restriction on content shown to under 18s may force celebrities to abandon their support of such products if they wish to continue marketing to this audience.
The move will see such products removed from the feed of users under 18, while any procedures or products based on unsound science or unsupported by evidence will be banned from the platforms completely.