Influencers urged to label airbrushed Instagram selfies that are creating 'warped view' of beauty

A screenshot from the app store of a plastic surgery simulating / photo editing app. It shows a before and after. In the after photo, a woman's nose and chin have been augmented.
Dr Luke Evans MP says edited images are creating 'unrealistic aspirations'. Credit: Plastic Surgery Simulator on the App Store
  • By Digital Presenter and Producer Mojo Abidi

Influencers and celebrities could be banned from secretly photoshopping their pictures on social media.

A proposed law could force users to label images where faces or bodies have been digitally altered. 

It aims to address unrealistic beauty standards, and has the support of body image experts and mental health charities. 

The YMCA’s Be Real campaign, which aims to change negative attitudes to body image, says this law is a step in the right direction. 

Liam Preston, head of the campaign, said: “Images should show people as they are in real life. Social media has a huge impact on how people feel about their bodies. 

“Young people especially are on social media constantly and they are bombarded with airbrushed photos that aren’t attainable, causing low self-esteem. 

“But if people see an image that has been labelled as edited, they will know it’s not reality.” 

There are hundreds of selfie editing apps available. Credit: Facetune on the App store

It’s not just celebrities that are editing their photos  There are hundreds of free apps available that can whiten teeth, remove blemishes, smooth wrinkles, shrink noses and more. 

“It’s too easy to edit images these days,” said Mr Preston, “Just a few clicks and you can change your whole appearance.

“We know young people are distorting their images because they think it will help them get more likes on social media.” 

The campaign’s research showed that three fifths of young people in the UK feel celebrities put them under the most pressure to look a certain way.

This was followed closely by people on social media. 

“Celebrities and influencers have a responsibility to be transparent,” Mr Preston added. 

Instagram removed more than four million pieces of violent graphic content. Credit: PA

Dr Luke Evans, a Conservative MP on the Health and Social Care Committee, was inspired to introduce the bill because of his role as a GP.

He said: “We are living in a world of warped reality. What people see on social media just can’t be achieved. 

“If you slim someone’s waist or make someone’s biceps bigger on a digital photo, it creates unrealistic aspirations. 

“Through my work, I see so many people who are worried about their body image. It plays into anxiety and depression, in the worst cases it can lead to eating disorders.” 

The bill would require ‘advertisers, broadcasters and publishers to display a logo in cases where an image of a human body or body part has been digitally altered’. 

Similar legislation already exists in France and Israel. 

Dr Evans believes rule breakers should be fined, “but even just a simple apology would be a good start,” he says. 

This app promises to remove blemishes 'with a simple click'. Credit: Perfect Face on the App Store

Some say the law would be hard to enforce. 

Saskia Marriott, who works in social media for fast fashion company In The Style, said: “It would be really difficult to police. How can you prove that a photo has been edited, especially if the changes are subtle?

“Some people who edit their photos do it so well you can’t tell it’s been altered.

“I also think there’s also a huge difference between removing a spot or red eye and completely changing your waistline. Where do you draw the line? 

She says airbrushed images on influencer platforms and social media are more common than people realise. 

Dr Evans accepts that the recommendations would be difficult to impose. 

He said: “There will have to be an element of trust with it but for most people, if the law exists then they won’t break it. 

“My hope is that eventually there will be no need for the logo because the use of doctored images will stop entirely. 

“But in the meantime if images have been altered, the viewer will know not to take it at face value.”

The bill will be heard in Parliament on 15 September.