Body Image Bill

On Weds 12 Jan, I introduced my Body Image Bill in Parliament, which calls for commercial images featuring digitally altered bodies to be labelled. If an image has been edited for commercial purposes, or somebody has edited an image they are being paid to post, it is absolutely right that the image should carry a disclaimer. Edited commercial images do not represent reality, and are helping to perpetuate a warped sense of how we appear, with real consequences for people suffering with body confidence issues, which I’ve seen first-hand in my role as a GP. 

What is the Digitally Altered Images Bill?  

My Private Member’s Bill would require advertisers, broadcasters and publishers to display a disclaimer in cases where an image of a human body or body part has been digitally altered in its proportions for commercial purposes. This disclaimer would be similar to the ‘P’ symbol for product placement, for example, seen on commercial television in the UK.  

Quite simply, if someone is being paid to post a picture on social media which they have edited, or if advertisers, broadcasters or publishers are making money from an edited photograph in any form, they should be honest and upfront about having edited it.  

What is the campaign hoping to achieve?  

The campaign is designed to help tackle the issue of low body confidence and unrealistic depictions of the way we look, which can have wide-ranging effects on physical and mental health. In his background as a GP, Dr Luke Evans has seen first-hand how unrealistic adverts can have a real, tangible and dangerous impact on eating disorders and body confidence issues.   

The Body Image Bill aims to tackle both traditional forms of advertising, and newer forms on social media through ‘influencing’ and sponsored posts.  

What’s the scale of the problem?  

  • It is estimated in the UK that 1.25 million people are suffering with anorexia or bulimia and growing, and over 1 million people using steroids or image enhancing drugs (Source: Beat, The Guardian)  

  • Last year, the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry into body image found that concerns about the way we look “start younger, last longer, and affect more people than ever before”, with 61 per cent of adults and 66 per cent of children feeling negative, or very negative, about their body image “most of the time”.  

  • 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 3 teenagers feel shame about their body, with nearly 20% of adults feeling disgusted about their body image. (Source: Mental Health Foundation)  

  • 51% of 7-10 year old girls feel ‘very happy’ with how they look, but by age 11-16 when most girls start to use social media, this drops significantly to just 16%. In 2017, 88% of girls aged 11-21 said they wanted adverts which had been airbrushed to say so. (Source: Girlguiding)  

How would the Body Image Bill work?  

In any instance where an image has been edited for commercial purposes, a disclaimer would be required to be displayed on the image before publication.     

If the bill was passed, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, would develop specific guidelines on how the disclaimer would look, where it would be placed, what qualifies as ‘edited’ and what is a ‘commercial purpose’.