Mental Health

A UK bill is calling for digitally-altered photos to be labelled online

The campaign is hoping to push against "unrealistic depictions" of body types.
By Meera Navlakha  on 
An mage of an iPhone with a selfie.
Credit: Mashable / Vicky Leta

A proposed bill in the UK is calling for commercial images featuring digitally-altered bodies to be labelled as such. This means advertisers, broadcasters, and publishers would have to include a disclaimer for any Photoshopped or edited images.

The bill, introduced by Dr. Luke Evans, was presented in Parliament on Wednesday, indicating a push for more honesty online.

A Tory MP and former general practitioner, Evans shared the news of the proposed bill on Twitter. In a thread, he wrote, "If an image has been edited for commercial purposes, or if somebody with considerable influence has edited an image they are being paid to post, I believe that the image should carry a disclaimer."

In a statement on his website, the MP also outlined the bill, including its aims, how the bill would work, and the underscoring problem. Evans stated he is hoping to push against "unrealistic depictions" of body types, which the statement says can have a tangible impact and "wide-ranging effects on physical and mental health."

"Edited commercial images do not represent reality, and are helping to perpetuate a warped sense of how we appear, with real consequences for people suffering with body confidence issues," he wrote.

The effort to be "upfront" about edited images could potentially have a welcome impact on mental health and self-perception for young people in particular, amid a toxic culture on social media which promotes unrealistic standards of "perfect" body image. Here, social platforms including Instagram have done palpable damage to teenage girls — a Wall Street Journal investigation in September 2021 revealed that a third of teen girls said Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies than they already did.

An estimated 1.25 million people in the UK have anorexia and bulimia, according to eating disorder charity Beat. Concerns about body image are starting young, with 61 percent of adult and 66 percent of children feeling negative or very negative about their bodies "most of the time." With the ever-growing presence of social media and the huge amount of posts related to diet culture and cosmetic surgery available, this problem is not going away anytime soon.

Should the bill be passed, the Advertising Standards Authority, the country's independent regulator for advertising, will develop guidelines for how the disclaimer would appear, and whether an image can be regarded as "edited" or serving a "commercial purpose."

If you want to talk to someone about an eating disorder or treatment options, in the UK, Beat's helpline details are on their websitethere's also a web chat option. You can also call Samaritans any time, day or night on 116 123, use a text line like Shout, or consult this NHS list of helplines and support groups

In the U.S. call NEDA's hotline at (800) 931-2237 or visit NEDA's website.

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