Instagram is banning filters that promote cosmetic surgery as it battles mental health concerns

Business Insider Lifestyle 1 month ago
  • Instagram announced this week it would remove filters from the app that promote cosmetic surgery. 
  • An August update to the app let users submit their own filters to the app's Effects Gallery. Some of these filters, when applied to photos, would mimic the effects of facelifts, Botox injections, and other surgeries. 
  • Instagram decided to remove the cosmetic surgery filter over concerns they create unrealistic beauty standards images which could contribute to negative body image among users. 
  • Instagram overhauled its rules for self-harm images earlier this year after reports emerged claiming images depicting self-harm and depression on the site had contributed to a 14-year-old British teenager's suicide. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Instagram has removed the ability for users to add cosmetic surgery filters to their photos, citing body image and mental health concerns.

The filters mimic surgeries like facelifts and Botox injections. A spokesperson for Facebook, Instagram's parent company, told Insider it was "re-evaluating its policies," because it wanted it's Augmented Reality effects to be "a positive experience for people."

The company's decision to remove the filters comes amid a growing body of research suggesting links between viewing unrealistic beauty standards online and harmful consequences in real life. 

Instagram rolled out an update to the app in August which lets users create and submit their own face filters using Spark AR Studios. Those filters were then searchable by other users in the app's Effects Gallery.

Some of the cosmetic filters submitted included Beautiful Face, Perfect Skin, and HolyBucks — which, when applied, covers the user's face with dollar signs and increases their lip size. While most of these filters have already been removed, some, like "Bad Botox," remain active on the platform. 

A post shared by @filtrogram

The Facebook spokesperson said the company would  "remove all effects associated with plastic surgery from the Instagram Effect Gallery," and cancel those submitted by developers. 

On Friday, ahead of Instagram's announcement, Spark AR announced it would remove all of its filters "associated with plastic surgery."

"We want Spark AR effects to be a positive experience and are re-evaluating our existing policies as they relate to well-being," the company said in a Facebook post.

Instagram has spent the past year responding to concerns about self-harm

The decision by Instagram to remove the cosmetic filters is the latest in a series of overhauls made to the app this year focused on body image and mental health.

Instagram came under renewed scrutiny earlier this year after the father of a 14-year-old British teenager who committed suicide in 2017 said he believed Instagram images depicting self-harm and depression contributed to his daughter's death.

Not long after that, Instagram released an overhaul of its self-harm policy, making those images less visible on the platform.

fix me filter just out - come live your plastic surgery fantasy

A post shared by DANIEL MOONEY (@danielmooney) on May 24, 2019 at 7:58am PDT

While most online have reacted well to Instagram's decision, some filter developers, like Daniel Mooney, were less receptive. Mooney created the FixMe filter, which shows markings on a person's face that are meant to mimic the lines surgeons draw before making incisions. In an interview with the BBC, Mooney said his app was never intended to create a glamorized image. 

"FixMe was only ever supposed to be a critique of plastic surgery, showing how unglamorous the process is with the markings and bruising," Mooney told the BBC.

Mooney went on to say that he understands Instagram's decision but said that such a decision was undermined by users with large follower counts who themselves have had cosmetic surgery in real life. 

When Instagram announced it would remove images of self-harm form the platform earlier this year, the company went a step further and made a distinction between graphic images and on-graphic images like healed scars. It's unclear whether that same type of nuance is being applied to the filter ban.

The Facebook spokesperson did not respond to Insider's questions about how or whether the company would distinguish between filters that glamorize cosmetic surgery and those criticizing the process. 


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