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In the Media | Norway Thinks Slapping Labels on Touched-up Photos Will Combat Body Image Issues. Here’s Why That Won’t Work.

Written by: Samantha DeCaro, PsyD, Director of Clinical Outreach at The Renfrew Center
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In Norway, effective July 2022, it will be against the law for advertisers and influencers to post retouched images of people’s bodies on social media without noting that they’ve been Photoshopped. Violators will face hefty fines or even jail time. While it is heartwarming to hear that an entire country has taken up the cause of banning “false advertising” of the human body, this bold move does not address the heart of the problem.

Telling someone an image isn’t real will not prevent them from inspecting it and comparing their own body to it. After all, we are constantly inundated with the message that appearance and self-worth are one and the same.

Manipulated images are especially harmful to those with eating disorders, as comparisons often trigger intrusive thoughts about body image followed by dangerous behaviors like restricting, bingeing, and purging.

Studies have shown that disclaimers on manipulated images are ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Slapping a call-out on an edited photo could have the unintended consequence of making it more interesting, causing someone to inspect it for a longer period of time.

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