Home Tech Should there be regulations on social media face-altering filters?

Should there be regulations on social media face-altering filters?


Krystle Berger claims that she merely enhances her photos and videos on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook by applying digital makeup and adjusting lighting. However, concerns arise as technology allows for increasingly advanced face alterations, prompting the question of whether authorities should step in.

Hailing from Indiana, United States, Ms. Berger is among millions worldwide who subscribe to FaceTune, an app that boasts over 200 million downloads. This application empowers users to make subtle adjustments, such as smoothing wrinkles, or opt for complete transformations. It offers features like face slimming, altering eye shape and size, or even providing a virtual nose job.

Initially limited to photos, FaceTune introduced a version for short selfie videos two years ago, which has since improved significantly in its capabilities.

Meanwhile, Perfect365, another popular app for social media photo alterations, is set to launch its video version later this year.

Owned by Israeli firm Lightricks, FaceTune was valued at $1.8 billion (£1.4 billion) two years ago.

Zeev Farbman, the founder of Lightricks, emphasizes the importance of user-friendly functionality. He aims to provide 80% of the power of professional software with only 20% of the complexity. Simplifying the app’s usability is their primary goal.

However, concerns persist about the negative impact of such tools. They promote an unrealistic standard of beauty, which can be harmful, especially for impressionable children and young adults. In a survey conducted by skincare brand Dove in 2021, it was found that 80% of teenage girls had altered their appearance in an online photo by the age of 13.

While there is no widespread call for a ban on this technology, there is a growing push for social media advertisers and influencers, who often receive payment for promoting products informally, to disclose when they have digitally altered their physical appearance.

In 2021, Norway implemented a law that mandates social media platforms to disclose whether a photograph has undergone retouching. Taking a step further, France is currently in the process of introducing a similar requirement for both photos and videos.

In the United Kingdom, the issue is also being examined as the government’s Online Safety Bill progresses through Parliament. The extent of the law’s scope, whether it will only apply to social media advertisements or encompass influencers as well, remains to be determined.

A representative from the newly established Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology affirmed the government’s serious consideration of the risks posed by digitally manipulated content.

Conservative MP Luke Evans has been a persistent advocate for transparency from advertisers and influencers regarding image alterations on social media. He urges the new legislation to incorporate future-proof regulations that encompass video alterations and other technological advancements.

Evans emphasizes the importance of broader awareness and increased transparency surrounding these emerging technologies, emphasizing that honesty should be the guiding principle.

Mr. Farbman responds by noting that while the discussion surrounding these tools has always existed, their acceptance has grown over time. He argues that limiting users’ expressive freedom based on aesthetic or ethical sensibilities seems peculiar to him, emphasizing the issue as a matter of free speech.

Sean Mao, the CEO of San Francisco-based Perfect365, encourages responsible and ethical use of their app. He urges users to express their creativity without maliciously deceiving others or misrepresenting themselves.

Psychologist Stuart Duff, a partner at the UK practice Pearn Kandola, explains that some social media influencers are often enticed to enhance their online appearance because attractiveness sells. He highlights the strong, albeit often unconscious, influence of physical attractiveness on our decision-making when purchasing products or services. Despite consciously downplaying its importance, psychological research consistently reveals a positive correlation between a person’s attractiveness and their selling ability.

A notable social media influencer named Brandon B, with 5.6 million followers on YouTube, holds the view that photo and video manipulation apps should be regarded positively.

Brandon B expresses his appreciation for the existence of these apps, as he believes they allow people who are not body positive enough to participate on social media and avoid feeling excluded. According to him, these tools enable individuals to engage in social media platforms.

However, Dr. Shira Brown, an emergency physician at South Niagara Hospital in Ontario, Canada, observes that “distorted perceptions of body image” seem to be amplified by prevalent social media practices. She further highlights the daily occurrence of urgent mental health consequences, such as anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and depression, which are observed in their medical departments and can be attributed to social media usage.

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