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Instagram and Facebook recently announced that they have introduced an age limit on cosmetic surgery adverts, so that under 18s will not be shown posts that promote the effects of surgery. This news was welcomed by many of us in the industry who are concerned about the impact these kinds of posts can have on the physical and emotional wellbeing of young and vulnerable people.

However, just weeks after the announcement, it is disappointing to see that a new filter was published on Instagram that appeared to promote cosmetic surgery. According to a report by Mirror.co.uk, the “Fix Me” filter takes an image of the user and suggests how a cosmetic surgeon would transform their face. For example, it would illustrate any “problem areas” with a black pen and then suggest enhancements such as larger lips or a smaller nose.

Mirror.co.uk contacted Instagram and the platform removed the filter from use. A spokesperson for Facebook, the company that owns Instagram, said: “The ‘Fix Me’ filter created by a third party developer on the Spark AR platform has been removed for violating our guidelines. We’re constantly looking at how filters might impact people’s wellbeing and are in the process of re-evaluating our policies in this area.”

While it is positive to see that action has been taken, the story illustrates just how many ways in which people are being influenced by social media, and how difficult it can be to control potentially harmful messaging. This is especially difficult when there are a host of third parties involved with developing content that is potentially shown to millions of people through the world’s most popular platforms.

Social networks must do everything in their power to keep on top of this and prevent their platforms being used to spread messaging that is unsuitable and potentially dangerous. This is one of the reasons why we at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors are calling for a change in legislation, so that content that features or demonstrates the effects of cosmetic surgery and procedures is not shown to anybody aged under 21. We would also like to see a dedicated hashtag #CosmeticFilter used by individuals to give greater transparency over whether they have had cosmetic surgery and procedures.

In the meantime, there are also measures that individuals can take to protect themselves from potentially harmful content. We included a selection of tips in our infographic that explores social media and body image. These include measures like:

  • Regularly cleansing your account so that you only follow people that inspire you, promote a healthy attitude and which boost your wellbeing
  • You can also follow specific hashtags that will help you find new accounts that promote your own values
  • Blocking and reporting unsuitable content is also a good way to remove unwanted posts from your feed and protect other users from seeing this in the future
  • Finally, if social media is becoming detrimental to your wellbeing, it might be time to consider either pausing your account or coming off the platforms altogether.

Remember that you are in control of your networks and you have the final say in how they make you feel.

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