Dr Luke Evans, GP turned Conservative MP, is set to introduce the Digitally Altered Body Image Bill into the House of Commons today, forcing social media stars to display warning logos on edited body image photos.
The bill calls upon advertisers, broadcasters and publishers that monetise from their content across social media platforms to issue labels on images of human bodies or body parts that have been digitally altered in its proportions.
As part of his campaign, Dr Evans has introduced a petition that “Government should #RecogniseBodyImage as a priority in the Online Harms Legislation”, which would require social media companies to recognise body image in their community standards, to foster healthier and realistic representations of body image, and require this content to be regulated.
“When I was a GP, particularly young women with eating disorders would talk about the fact that they’re driven by these images and think they need to have a perfect physique,” Evans said in an interview with Sky News.
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director for England and Wales at the Mental Health Foundation, backed the move, calling the MP’s concerns “well founded”.
“There are many pressures on young people and adults to look ‘perfect’ and our own research shows that image editing apps are negatively impacting the wellbeing of millions”, he said.
In its 2019 Body Image report, the Mental Health Foundation found that one in four young people aged 18-24 said they felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they had felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
One in eight had edited pictures of themselves to change their face or body shape in the previous year.
“Labelling edited images is just one approach and unfortunately there is a scarcity of research to show it will solve the overall problem. For labelling (or any other industry change) to work, it will need to be co-produced with experts by experience and its implementation needs to be carefully evaluated.”
“We applaud Dr Luke Evans MP for his work drawing attention to this issue in Parliament and we will continue to support and share our research on this issue”, Kousoulis added.
Crucially, the bill focuses on informing, not banning edited images altogether, and Evans wrote: “If passed, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, would develop specific guidelines on how the disclaimer would look, where it would be placed, what qualifies as ‘edited’ and what is a ‘commercial purpose.”
Evans is speaking at a Ten Minute Rule Motion this afternoon.