On July 6, 2021, BBC News published an article of influencers reacting to a new photo editing law in Norway titled, Influencers react to Norway photo edit law: 'Welcome honesty' or a 'shortcut'?. Kirsty Grant interviews Norwegian Instagram influencer Madeleine Pedersen, who reportedly hopes that the law will decrease unrealistic comparisons in youth. This new law in Norway will prevent social media influencers, actors, singers or anyone from posting modified photos unless they state it has been altered. The retouched photo law applies to any image that has altered body size, form, skin color, filters. "Any exaggeration of muscles, enlarged lips, and narrower waists will require labeling," no longer will individuals be able to profit off misleading and altered photos without admitting editing and being transparent about retouching.
The law affects influencers as the rule applies to all paid social media posts across all platforms as “an effort to ‘reduce body pressure’ among young people”. BBC reports that Madeleine Pedersen, 26, is supportive of the law and told Radio 1 “its ‘about time’ the rules were changed,” due to the effects of unrealistic body standards propelled by misleading and altered images that harm young individual’s mental health.
Source: Taylor & Francis 2018
Norway deemed this law a necessity as the number of mental health patients requiring treatment has exploded in recent years (BBC). With a small population of 5.4 million, approximately 70,000 children and adolescents suffer from mental health issues. By requiring transparency on influencers’ retouched photos, it prevents them from profiting off false images and continuing to influence body and appearance pressure in children and young adults. Admitting alteration to images has been supported by many online influencers to challenge toxic body ideals. If young adults and children alike are looking up to people from social media, they deserve to know if their body image has been altered. Taylor and Francis conducted research in 2016 with 144 girls between the ages of 14 to 18; this showed how exposure to morphed social media images negatively affected the young participants involved.
Source: Taylor & Francis 2018
Though this is not a direct solution to solve mental health issues in society, Norway’s new photo law opens an important discussion for us in the United States. On September 15th, 2021, CNN Business reported that Instagram is “looking at new ways to discourage users from focusing on their physical appearance after The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook researchers have repeatedly found that the photo-sharing platform is toxic for teen girls.” The research shows a correlation between damaged mental health and body image, especially in the teenage girl demographic. Facebook executives can no longer ignore the harmful effects of social media and mental health concerns; no executives should be able to put this issue aside. The Wall Street Journal reports that among teens who report suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.
As the next generation, imagine we could make a positive impact on the young minds of our future society and advocate for realistic standards across social media. Sign our petition to support the implementation of a paid social media law requiring transparency on all altered/retouched photos.