A regular criticism of Instagram is its ability to fuel the already raging fire around society's unrealistic body pressures. A study in 2017 found that women were more likely to "self-objectify" when they spent more than half an hour a day on Instagram.
A handful of celebrities and influencers have come under fire for endorsing weight-loss aids, including Kim Kardashian, who posted about the benefits of "appetite-suppressant lollipops".
Addressing the issue, the social media platform is introducing a new policy this week, focusing on weight-loss products and cosmetic surgery.
It comes after the medical director for NHS England, professor Stephen Powis, called out "irresponsible and unsafe" social media adverts earlier this year.
Speaking to Women’s Health, Instagram's public policy manager, Emma Collins said: "We've been thinking a lot about the relative pressure to look or behave a certain way and what that might mean for people using Instagram.
"We wanted to look at diet culture and cosmetic surgery, and the commercial relationships around promoting these things on our platform.
"The aim was to strike the balance between the opinion that they perhaps shouldn't be allowed, as our community was telling us they feel uncomfortable when exposed to the products all the time, with the fact that they're freely available in pharmacies."
By bringing in experts, they've aimed to grasp "where to draw the line, when something's not illegal, but it's not totally fine," added Collins.
It's not the first change the platform has made to help improve the wellbeing of users; earlier this year they began experimenting with hiding likes to reduce pressure when posting pictures.
What are Instagram's new policy rules?
"We're going to start to remove content that makes a miraculous claim about a diet or a weight-loss product that's linked to a commercial offer," explained Collins. "That means, if someone posts an image of themselves sipping a diet tea with a caption that says something along the lines of ‘this helped me lose 10lbs really fast’ and then incentivises you to buy it or gives you a discount code, we’ll remove it."
When a user reports a post, it will go to a team of reviewers who will compare the content against the standards. As with any new policy, it will take some time to train the technology so they foresee an initial period before it's working to its full potential.
The main focus will be "any ingestible product or supplement marketed with the primary purpose of losing weight that excludes pharmaceutical drugs and includes diet teas, diet pills and similar sorts of products," said Collins.
She talked about not wanting to sensor healthy discussions between the "thriving fitness community", when it came to supplements, as well as the potential merits of legal cosmetic surgery — especially for the trans community.
In short, the aim is "less proliferation of this kind of content in people's feeds and hopefully what that will mean is overall people feel more comfortable. I think it’s a small part of a much bigger piece of work around reducing pressure," said Collins.
"You can’t keep 100 per cent of people happy, but it's about working together to move in the right direction and this is largely assumed to be the right direction."
From Harper's Bazaar U.K.