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Is it time for a Photoshop button on Instagram?

By Isaac Fanin
Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightMel Wells/Twitter

France has brought in new laws which will force advertisers to say if a commercial image has been edited to make a model look thinner.

One ex-soap actress thinks the UK needs to bring a similar law, but wants social media companies to help too.

Mel Wells, who used to be in Hollyoaks, is now a body image coach but has battled eating disorders in the past.

"We're looking at 400-600 images a day, which is affecting how we think we're supposed to look," she says.

"Young girls and women are not looking at billboards or magazines. Their heads are in their phones comparing themselves to people on Instagram.

"If we really want to make a massive change here, then we have to apply the same thing for Instagram retouching as that's where most advertising is happening now."

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Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson doesn't think it's as simple as that.

She's been campaigning for better education around body image for over a decade and co-founded a body confidence campaign.

"Policing that would be incredibly difficult," she says, "You're not just talking about models, but often as important to young people are the images of their peers and people of a similar age.

image copyrightYouTube/Mel Wells

"This is now so accessible, in terms of the software, that this is happening in classrooms and people's bedrooms up and down the country."

Advertisers in France must put the words "Photographie retouchée" which means "edited photograph" on any retouched pictures.

Rule breakers could be fined 37,500 euros (£33,000) or 30% of the cost of creating the ad.

It's unclear whether the new rules will apply to social media sites.

image copyrightYouTube/Mel Wells

"I think what may happen with this French law, is that every image will have a disclaimer on it and therefore it becomes like the disclaimer you see at the bottom of adverts for financial services that people don't actually read," says Jo Swinson.

"Getting advertisers to change their practices, I think is a better way of getting progress than actually passing laws."

image copyrightYouTube/Mel Wells

She thinks the new approach taken by one of the world's biggest picture agencies Getty Images, which will not be hosting altered images on its site, will be much more effective than the French law.

Celebrities like Meghan Trainor, Lena Dunham and Lorde have spoken out about airbrushed images and videos.

"The aspirational body types are just not realistic for 95% of the population and because of that it's really damaging people's self-esteem and making people feel like they're constantly not enough and that they can never aspire to look like these perfectly shaped women," says Mel.

"But the thing is, even the models don't look like this.

"If the models don't look like that, then we have a right to know that that's been digitally altered."

It's unclear whether the new rules will apply to social media sites but Instagram says if advertisers don't stick to local laws, then they could see their ads cancelled and their accounts closed down.

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Related Topics

  • Body image
  • Social media