Facebook and Instagram have vowed to take a more hard-line approach to content that promotes eating disorders, following pressure from campaigners and charities. Under the new Instagram and Facebook rules, images of ribcages, concave stomachs, “thigh gaps” and self-harm will be banned.
Content that promotes and offers tips on unhealthy dramatic weight loss will also be prohibited. The new restrictions are part of a move by the platforms to stop the proliferation of “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” posts, which encourage and inspire others to follow restrictive diets and offer advice on how to hide this behaviour from their parents and healthcare professionals.
Charities and organisations say that images glamourising eating disorders are very dangerous because they can act as a trigger or worsen an existing condition and hinder the recovery process.
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A spokeswoman for Facebook said: “Nothing is more important to us than keeping the people who use our platforms safe – especially the most vulnerable.
“We do not and have never allowed content that encourages or promotes eating disorders and will remove it as soon as we are made aware of it… [but] we now classify more content as promotion, so more is removed.
“Experts agreed that certain types of content we previously allowed or treated as admission could be promotional because of the context in which it is shared.”
Following public outrage over the suicide of British teenager Molly Russell, which her father says was caused by images on Instagram, Facebook banned images of self-harm.
The new regulations were approved by Facebook’s rules council last September and came into effect last week. The content ban includes images of “ribs, collar bones, thigh gaps, hips, concave stomachs or protruding spine or scapula” when shared in combination with “terms associated with eating disorders”.
Some images of this nature will be permitted as long as they are shared “in the context of recovery”. But, such images will be labelled with a warning make users aware that the content might be upsetting and hidden behind a sensitivity screen.
Facebook says the decision was made with input from youth advocates, academics and eating disorder charities in the UK, the USA and Ireland.