In Norway, a new law comes into force that will mean that influencers on social media (influencers) cannot post modified photos without saying what they have done. The rules will affect any paid post on all social media platforms, as part of an effort to “reduce pressure on young people about how their bodies look”.
“We need this law”
Madeleine Pedersen, 26, is a Norwegian Instagram influencer. Pedersen tells BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat that it is “time” for the rules to change and that she hopes the law will prevent young people from being compared to unrealistic images. “There are many people who feel insecure about their body or their face”, she says.
“I have struggled with body issues due to Instagram in the past”, she admits. “The worst part is, I do not even know if the other girls she looked up to edited her photos or not. So we all need answers, we need a law like this”.
Madeleine does not “feel the need” to edit her appearance in her posts, which reach an audience of more than 90,000 people. She changes the “light, colors and sharpness to get a better atmosphere”, but she says that she would never use an app to alter the appearance of her face or her body.
It will also cover the use of filters, such as those that can be used on Snapchat, as well as digital alterations to body shape and size. It affects anyone who posts a paid promotion on social media, including many influencers, actors, and singers.
The Norwegian government’s website says the aim of the law is to help reduce pressure on society due to “idealized people in advertising. Among other things, the duty to mark advertising retouched or otherwise manipulated is introduced when this means that the body of the person in the advertisements deviates from reality in terms of body shape, size or skin”, she adds.
Madeleine Pedersen believes that the new requirements will make Norwegian influencers less likely to edit their images.
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“They will be too embarrassed to admit it, so they will edit less, as it should”, she says. “You are beautiful; do not throw that away for a few likes. That is not real life”, she advises her.
Eirin Kristiansen, a 26-year-old influencer from Bergen, Norway, agrees that the new law is a “step in the right direction”, but she believes it is “not very well thought out. To me, it seems more like a shortcut to fixing a problem that is not going to get better”, Eirin tells Newsbeat. “Mental health problems are caused by much more than an edited photo, and another tag on advertisers’ photos will not change how girls and boys really feel, in my opinion”.
A study by UK MPs last year found that the majority of those under the age of 18 said that social media images “extremely” influenced their body image. Only 5% of those under the age of 18 in the survey said they would not consider changing their appearance by doing it through diet or surgery.
Eirin says that she does not edit her photos, but that she plays with “lights and colors” to capture a “mood”. “I think we should focus more on how we can learn to be selective in what we see and learn how social media really works”, she says.
“Social media are here to stay”
Em Clarkson, an influencer from London, agrees that it is important to be selective about what we see. The 26-year-old posts raw images and often talks about the damage of filters and editing apps.
But she was not always like this. “When I was 16 I downloaded Photoshop and learned how to use it so I could upload a bikini photo to Facebook”, she admits. “I know that if these [editing] apps had existed then, when I was not happy with my body, I would have used them for sure”.
Em Clarkson wants the UK to have a similar law
When she was younger, Em she says she found it difficult to compare herself to the women she saw on magazine covers, which happened about 2 times a week. But she worries that younger people on Instagram now see edited images “50, 100 times a day, and every day.”
Em says the UK government should take the issue “more seriously” and introduce a law like Norway’s.
“She was pretty, nice and we talked every day … but in the end it was a scam” “All indicators show mental health problems, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, everything is on the rise,” she says. “I was lucky to fall into an extraordinarily positive community on Instagram, but the vast majority of the Internet is not like that,” adds Em.
“There has to be some basis on which we agree to act responsibly, and I think [the new Norwegian law] is a good start. We cannot tell people to stop editing their images, that is not feasible. But we can tell them, ‘If you are going to do it, you have to be honest.’ That is great”.