You'll soon see fewer ads for "flat tummy" tea and lip fillers on Instagram. The social media platform announced today that it is tightening restrictions on posts related to diet products and cosmetic surgery. The new rules -- first reported in the London Evening Standard -- will apply to both Facebook and Instagram, and will result in age restrictions being applied to some posts and other posts being removed entirely.
The social media platforms will ban posts promoting dubious weight loss products that are linked to a commercial offer (like a discount code). Furthermore, both will restrict users who are under 18 years old from viewing content that promote the use of certain weight loss products and cosmetic procedures.
Instagram's public policy manager, Emma Collins, said in an interview with the London Evening Standard that the platform worked with external experts to make this change without ruining the spirit of Instagram. "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," said Collins.
Dr. Ysabel Gerrard, a professor at the University of Sheffield and one of the outside experts Instagram consulted prior to the change, tweeted that she worked with a team of academics, activists and practitioners, including actress Jameela Jamil. According to Gerrard, Instagram will remove posts that make a "miraculous claim" about a diet or weight loss product. Users will also be able to report posts they believe are in violation of the rules.
"Miraculous claims means they aren't sustainable. Products like skinny teas, these have been publicly criticised as they offer short term solutions to something that naturally takes a lot longer. It's hard to blame social media solely for influencing eating disorders, but the content we see on social media is a contributing factor to how we feel about our bodies," said Gerrard in an interview with the London Evening Standard.
Gerrard told Engadget that she does anticipate pushback from companies that hawk such products over the policy change. "I do anticipate pushback from companies or individuals who sell these products, but they must act responsibly and re-shape their products and marketing techniques to optimise people's safety," said Gerrard in a direct message on Twitter. She also added that she did not get paid for her work with Instagram.
Numerous studies have suggested that Instagram may be a contributing factor to eating disorders and depression among teenagers. The social media platform has also been blamed for a rise in interest in plastic surgery -- such as fillers and Botox -- among younger individuals.