Image Manipulation on Social Media Raises Ethical Concerns, Sparks Legislative Actions

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Rise of facial manipulation apps: Apps like FaceTune and Perfect365 allow users to alter their appearance in photos and videos. Concerns have arisen over the unrealistic beauty standards promoted by these apps, particularly among young users.
Legislative response: Countries like Norway and France have implemented or proposed legislation to address image manipulation on social media. Norway requires indications of retouching, while France is pushing for similar requirements for both photos and videos. The UK is also considering the issue as part of its Online Safety Bill.
Perspectives on image manipulation: Founders of image manipulation app companies argue for expressive freedom and responsible use. Psychologists warn of the potential negative impacts on mental health and body image. Influencers have varying views, with some supporting legislation for transparency and others expressing concerns about false reporting and industry pressures.
Responsibility of platforms, influencers, and brands: Legislative actions aim to hold platforms accountable and provide reporting channels for consumers. Some influencers advocate for self-regulation, while others emphasize the need for brands and companies to take more responsibility.
Striking a balance: The challenge lies in finding a balance between creative freedom and protecting mental health and self-perception. The conversation around image manipulation on social media continues, with the hope of promoting authenticity, transparency, and positive self-image in the digital realm.

 

Social media has undeniably become an integral part of our lives, defining our personal and professional identities.

Users often seek an ideal image, leading to the rise of facial manipulation apps like FaceTune and Perfect365.

The former, owned by Israeli firm Lightricks, boasts over 200 million downloads worldwide. It allows users to subtly adjust their appearance or dramatically transform their facial features. 

Originally intended for photos, FaceTune has recently extended its capabilities to videos. Meanwhile, Perfect365, another popular app, is set to launch its video editing version later this year.

Concerns over Unrealistic Beauty Standards

The increasing use of such apps has sparked concerns over the unrealistic beauty standards they endorse, especially among impressionable youngsters.

According to a 2021 survey by Dove, 80% of teenage girls admitted to altering their appearance in online photos by the age of 13.

The issue has led to calls for greater transparency, with many demanding that social media advertisers and influencers disclose when they’ve manipulated their images.

The Regulatory Response

In response to these concerns, countries like Norway and France have already taken legislative steps. Norway introduced a law in 2021, requiring social media groups to indicate if a photograph has been retouched.

France is currently pushing for similar legislation, extending the requirement to both photos and videos.

The UK government, too, is considering the issue as part of its ongoing Online Safety Bill. 

However, the question of whether the law will target only adverts or influencers as well remains open.

According to a 2021 survey by Dove, 80% of teenage girls admitted to altering their appearance in online photos by the age of 13.

Voices from the Social Media Sphere

Zeev Farbman, the founder of Lightricks, maintains that the use of such tools is a matter of expressive freedom, growing acceptance over time.

Sean Mao, the CEO of Perfect365, urges users to employ the app responsibly, expressing creativity without misleading others.

On the other side of the argument, psychologist Stuart Duff suggests the lure of attractiveness in boosting online sales might tempt influencers into image alteration.

YouTube influencer Brandon B, with 5.6 million subscribers, sees photo and video manipulation apps as confidence-boosters for those uncomfortable with their body image.

Meanwhile, Dr. Shira Brown, an emergency physician, warns that social media practices can exacerbate distorted body image perceptions, leading to severe mental health issues.

Influencers’ Perspective

Canadian influencer Jill Lansky, known as @theaugustdiaries, has welcomed the proposed French bill requiring influencers to disclose filter use.

Lansky views this as a positive step against false advertising and the propagation of unattainable beauty standards.

She also acknowledges the need for self-regulation, underlining her refusal to use face-changing filters in sponsored content.

Lansky, however, also recognizes the industry pressures, especially in before-and-after product promotion scenarios. She acknowledges the challenges influencers face when negotiating with brands, especially in a saturated market.

Legislative Impact and the Way Forward

If the French bill passes, it will mandate platforms like TikTok and Instagram to create channels for consumers to report influencers.

However, Lansky raises concerns over false reporting and the difficulty of policing such a large industry.

She suggests that brands and companies that hire influencers should bear more responsibility.

The idea of disclaimers on retouched photos or videos might deter users from image manipulation, but the severity of potential punishments, such as fines or jail time, has raised eyebrows.

Lansky sees a discrepancy between the scrutiny of influencers and traditional media, noting that magazines have used retouched images for years without calls for disclosure.

Despite these concerns, Lansky remains optimistic, encouraged by feedback from followers who appreciate her authenticity.

As the conversation around image manipulation on social media intensifies, the spotlight is on how these platforms, influencers, and regulatory bodies will respond.

The challenge lies in striking a balance between creative freedom and the potential for harmful impacts on mental health and self-perception.

The global community awaits legislative actions that promote honesty, transparency, and wellbeing in the digital realm.

In the meantime, influencers like Lansky are leading the charge in promoting authenticity, transparency, and positive self-image.

The hope is that such actions, along with responsible use of image manipulation tools, can foster a healthier social media environment.

After all, social media should be a place that celebrates diversity, individuality, and genuine human connection, rather than an arena for promoting unrealistic and potentially harmful beauty standards.

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