Legislators in Norway’s Parliament have passed a new law, by a 72-15 vote, that will require content creators to disclose when they have retouched or added a filter to a photo. Yahoo News reports that the law will apply to influencers and advertisers alike, to address ‘body pressure in society.’ After garnering overwhelming support in parliament, the law will go into effect when directed by Harald V, the current King of Norway.
Youth advocacy groups and Norway’s Ministry of Children and Family Affairs have called for stricter measures on image editing for years, amid increasing concerns surrounding body image, mental health and low self-esteem, particularly among Norway’s youths.
In the legal proposal, it’s stated that approximately 70,000 children and young people have mental health issues requiring treatment. In a nation of just under 5.4 million, that’s a significant number of people. The proposal says that more than half of 10th-grade girls in the Oslo School have mental health problems, and anorexia is the third most common cause of death among young girls.
In a translation, the bill writes, ‘Body pressure is pointed out as one of the most important reasons why many young people struggle mentally. Young people are exposed to a massive pressure to look good through, among other things, advertising and social media, and the models that are shown are often digitally retouched. This exposes young people to an ideal of beauty that is impossible to achieve.’ Further, the ‘advertising industry’ is cited as one of the key reasons for increasing body pressure or ‘kroppspress‘ as it’s referred to in increasing public discourse in Norway.
Returning to the proposed law itself, it is an amendment to an existing law, Norway’s 2009 Marketing Act. The law will require advertising and sponsored posts where a body’s shape, size, or skin has been changed through photo manipulation – including a filter – or retouching to be marked with a label created by the Norwegian Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. Failure to comply will result in escalating fines and possibly even imprisonment in very extreme cases.
Per Vice, examples of manipulation that will require a label include enlarged lips, exaggerated muscles and narrowed waists. It remains unclear if adjustments that impact exposure, brightness, colors and overall saturation require a label.
While the law is primarily concerned with advertisers, it also applies to social media influencers, celebrities and other users who receive any compensation or benefit associated with a specific post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter.
Advocacy groups and politicians are hopeful that the label requirement will form part of a multi-pronged attack on the ‘body pressure’ issue impacting Norway’s youths. There are practical concerns, as noted by the Norwegian Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. It’s not always clear when a photo has been edited, for starters. Further, there is some concern that the law may result in some influencers undergoing cosmetic surgery, thus reducing the need for photo manipulation. That said, the Verdens Gang newspaper in Norway reports that the new regulations have been received positively by some Norwegian influencers.
The full impact of the law won’t be immediately realized, but there’s no question that social media plays a role in creating unrealistic expectations in many ways, including concerning body image. It’s also evident that there’s a significant risk for unrealistic images to be harmful. This is far from a Norway-specific issue, but it’s great to see at least some politicians working hard to reduce risk, especially for children.