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Instagram implements bans on weight loss content for kids

by Christopher Hutton Instagram users with a penchant for weight loss or cosmetic surgery may find it challenging to get access to the material surrounding this due to a recent ban. The image-sharing social media platform recently announced an update to its advertising and posting policy that would limit the ability for users to see ads or sponsored posts if they are less than 18 years old. The policy is one of several changes that the company recently made in hopes of making Instagram "a positive place for everyone," according to a representative from Instagram. The policy will affect users primarily by limiting how and what one will see in their feed. For example, if a Kardashian posts a sponsored ad about a weight loss product, then the ad would not appear on the feed of a follower who is younger than eighteen. This policy will be particularly important when a post includes an incentive to buy, or a listed price. This program change is a massive shift for Instagram, considering how it has, in recent years, become an enormous platform for influencer culture since many companies and infamous individuals began to receive excess payments for when they promoted the content on said platform. This practice has been a significant point of contention for several celebrities. Most notably, Jameela Jamil (The Good Place, former BBC presenter) voiced her concern with such practice earlier this year in a series of posts critiquing individuals like the Kardashians and their promotion of weight loss products. Jamil eventually went on to create a petition advocating for social media companies to put a clamp on the development of such products, due to the potential harm these products may have on younger women who may suffer from anorexia or other food-based issues. When asked about this policy change, Jamil told Elle UK that:

 "It sets the tone that this is not ok in our society. There are so many lies being told and we've accepted that as a cultural norm. For huge corporations - who are the main access points for these companies to sell their products to young people over the internet - to say they don't condone this sends out a huge ripple across the earth. It says that if giant corporations are willing to take a stand against this then it must be really serious"
Why is this change happening? It isn't clear in America. But in the United Kingdom, there was increased pressure by the National Health Service to encourage social media platforms to cut back on the promotion of weight loss products. These policy recommendations have gone back as far as February 2019 after a significant shift in Instagram policy put a broad ban. Now the NHS is pushing for all other platforms to place similar restrictions on weight loss product advertising. NHS chief executive Simon Stephens stated in a press release that:
 "Every business should put a premium on its customers' well-being, and it's welcome that social media giants are beginning to listen to NHS calls to rein in harmful or misleading content that could harm users' health…..Cracking down on ads for 'get slim quick' pills, misleading health advice and content that can inflame concerns about body image is what responsible companies routinely now all do."
So far, no other social media company has placed restrictions on content regarding weight loss or cosmetic surgery, although this change comes days after Facebook and Instagram made it significantly harder to search for posts that include self-harm.
Sources: Verge, BBC, Change.org, Elle UK, Medscape, National Health Executive, Guardian Image: Pexels

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