In a progressive move for the social media platform, Instagram has today revealed it is introducing a policy to restrict posts which promote weight loss products and cosmetic procedures, and remove commercial content which makes a “miraculous claim”.
Now, when people on Instagram see content they are unhappy with or offended by and report the post, Instagram will take one of two actions to ensure misinformation and damaging content about weight loss is no longer circulated on the platform.
From today, if a post promotes the use of weight loss products or cosmetic procedures, and “has an incentive to buy”/ includes a price, Instagram will restrict users under 18 from seeing the post. This is likely to include products such as appetite-suppressant lollies and detox teas, which are often advertised by high-profile celebrities.
The second feature of the new policy will completely ban content which makes a “miraculous claim” about diet or weight loss products, and is linked to a kind of commercial offer such as a discount code or free trial. Under Instagram’s revised Community Guidelines, the platform will be able to remove any content which comes under this description.
While Instagram itself has never allowed for the promotion of weight loss products as part of the company’s in-app advertising service, this new policy will address the problem of influencer marketing and social-media celebrity endorsements, which are often the root of the problem.
Stylist’s very own guest editor Jameela Jamil has remained a vocal opponent of the weight loss products promoted by celebrities since this trend began, and in the recent issue she guest-edited, the actress used her platform to highlight the toxic influence the diet industry has had on her life.
“This is a huge win for our ongoing fight against the diet/detox industry,” says Jamil, in response to Instagram’s announcement. “Facebook and Instagram taking a stand to protect the physical and mental health of people online, sends an important message out to the world.
“I’m thrilled to have been able to work towards this with them, alongside a host of other experts who shed light on the danger of these products,” she continues. “Instagram were supportive and helpful when I brought them my protests and petitions, they listened, they cared, they moved so efficiently, and communicated with us throughout the process.
“As someone who struggled with an eating disorder for most of my youth, I’ve personally known and suffered the perils of the devious side of the diet/detox industry,” she adds. “A focus of our advocacy since inception, it is a proud day for ‘I Weigh’ and a day of hope for our generation, who deserve respect and protection from the celebrities and influencers that they follow.”
Jamil’s @i_weigh movement has been imperative in bringing conversations about weight and the diet industry into the public eye, by encouraging people to share the elements of their personality which they “weigh” – opposed to just a number on the scales.
Alongside Jamil, Instagram took into account the opinions and guidance of external experts on the danger of weight loss products and the diet industry – the worth of which is expected to reach £220 billion by 2023.
“We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone that uses it and this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media,” says Emma Collins, Instagram’s Public Policy Manager.
She continues: “We’ve sought guidance form external experts, including Dr Ysabel Gerrard in the UK, to make sure any steps to restrict and remove this content will have a positive impact on our community of over 1 billion people around the world - whilst ensuring Instagram remains a platform for expression and discussion.”
This isn’t the only step Instagram have taken to protect the mental health of users on their platform. Earlier this year, the social media giant started testing a version of the app without likes, which was designed to help people focus on what they share, rather than how many likes something gets.
The trial – which is currently being rolled out in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil – still allows people to see how many likes their own posts get, but that information is not be publicly available.
With over one billion monthly users, Instagram is the world’s most popular social network after YouTube and Facebook. Nearly half of those on Instagram check it multiple times a day, and 71% of its audience is aged under 35.
The impact social media platforms like Instagram can have on our mental health has become a prevalent topic of debate over the last couple of years.
In 2017, the network was rated as the worst social media platform in a UK poll, in terms of its negative impact on young people’s mental health. At the time, Instagram said it was working to keep its feeds a safe and supportive place.
Whether it’s fuelling a “perfection myth,” promoting unrealistic body standards, or giving trolls and bullies a platform, it’s fair to say the social media platform has it’s problems – but movements such as the policy introduced today at least show that Instagram is committed to making changes to try and reduce the potential damage the platform can cause to young people.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Body Politics series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
1. We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
2. We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
3. We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
4. We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
5. Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.
Images: Ramona Rosales/Getty