Social media influencers would have to add a disclaimer logo to all digitally altered images of people under a new bill set to be proposed in parliament today.
The bill would apply to all edited commercial images where a person or company stands to make money from a photograph. This would include posts by social media influencers, private companies, broadcasters and other publishers.
“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,” Evans said in an announcement on Wednesday, 12 January.
He said he has seen first-hand during his work as a GP how “unrealistic adverts can have a real, tangible and dangerous impact on eating disorders and body confidence issues”.
Beat, an eating disorder charity, estimates that 1.25 million people in the UK are suffering from an eating disorder.
Low body confidence is a widespread issue. A 2019 report by the Mental Health Foundation found that one in five adults and one in three teenagers have feelings of shame about their body.
Additionally, an inquiry into body image by the Women and Equalities Committee in 2021 found that concerns about the way we look are starting younger, lasting longer and affecting “more people than ever before” with 61 per cent of adults and 66 per cent of children feeling negative, or very negative, about their body image “most of the time”.
Evans told Sky News that edited images, particularly on social media, set a standard for people “that they can never actually get to”.
“Because, if you doctor your image, make your biceps bigger, your waist slimmer – and there are multiple images reproduced across social media – the problem is you’re creating a perception that no matter what you do, when you go to the gym, no matter how good your diet is, you are never going to be able to reproduce that.
“I’ve got no problem with people aspiring to be fit and healthy, but not in a warped sense that we can never achieve.”
Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, told Sky News that while social media is not the sole cause of an eating disorder developing, “being exposed unrealistic body shapes and sizes online can also serve as ‘inspiration’ to engage in eating disorder behaviours and become more unwell.”
If the bill is passed, it would be regulated under the Advertising Standards Authority which would develop specific guidelines on how the disclaimer should look, where it would be placed and what qualifies as “edited” and as a “commercial purpose”.
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