Social media platforms are under increasing pressure to control the quality of the content that is spread on their networks. One persistent concern is the way the photo-sharing networks may lead to lower self-esteem in vulnerable populations and promote unhealthy weightloss habits. Instagram has taken a step to prevent this from happening on their platform by tightening the rules for posts related to weight loss and cosmetic surgery.
Last week, Instagram made a change that will affect users who post content about weight loss and cosmetic surgery. In some cases, the posts will see reduced reach as they are blocked from appearing on the accounts of minors. Other posts affected by the policy would be removed entirely.
There's hasn't been any official guidance from Facebook or Instagram on the matter. These policies typically come with press statements that let marketers know what is or what isn't allowed. In the meantime, marketers have to rely on the statements made in media reports.
Speaking to the BBC, Emma Collins, Instagram's public policy manager said: "We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone that uses it, and this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media."
According to the BBC, "Unrealistic "get thin quick" promotions will be taken down, and young people will be restricted from viewing some posts related to dieting and cosmetic surgery if they have an incentive to buy."
Though the major headlines were about Instagram, the changes will also apply to Facebook. This decision makes sense because it would be off for Facebook to take a stand on the issue on Instagram but not the parent platform. Facebook had already updated its policies earlier this year to address issues related to sensational medical claims. However, this latest action does take things a step further.
Previous efforts on Facebook focused on advertising and groups. This new measure will target specific posts for removal and block questionable content from being viewed by minors. Besides the checks Facebook has in place for advertisements, there will also be a way for users to report social media posts on the platform that violate the new policy. Flagged posts will be reviewed by Facebook or Instagram to see if they will be allowed.
Since there hasn't been an official press statement from Instagram or Facebook, marketers are in the dark about where the line is for acceptable weight loss promotions. One could argue that most over-the-counter weight loss products have unrealistic claims. Some likely targets include ineffective "detox" teas, lollipops, and other supplements. According to the Instagram public policy manager that spoke to the BBC, the company is seeking advice from social media policy experts.
Marketers who work with diet products and cosmetic surgery clients should be wary about the content they post. Until rules are established for what is okay and what isn't, there is a chance that content will be flagged often, and the judgment from raters may be inconsistent.
For more recent news about changes that will affect social media marketing, read this article on Facebook's new system for handling housing, credit, and job-related ads.