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Have beauty face filters on social media gone too far and should we regulate them?

This filter shocked many TikTok users
This filter shocked many TikTok users Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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In Norway, influencers must disclose whether a photo they posted has been retouched. France and the UK are now considering similar laws.

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Cellulite, pimples, imperfections – many of us have them. Yet, when you scroll through social media, you may feel like everyone else looks flawless online. 

That’s in part thanks to face filters and other apps that allow you to change your appearance - whether it’s smoothing over wrinkles or slimming down your nose. 

The market for these apps has been booming and these face filters are becoming more and more sophisticated. 

But it has also been argued these tools are toxic because they promote unrealistic beauty standards, especially for teenagers and young adults. 

Recently, TikTok a filter called "Bold Glamour" which adds fuller lips and makeup to a user's face. 

Many users expressed their shock at the filter's effect. "That filter makes you feel very sad," said one TikTok user whose reaction has gone viral. 

In another video, content creator Rosaura Alvarez says: “This is the problem… You can’t even tell it’s a filter anymore.”

Research conducted by the brand Dove found that 80 per cent of teenage girls said they had changed their appearance in an online photo by the age of 13. 

Social media has also been linked to depression and body dysmorphia, according to numerous studies

That’s why some countries in Europe have decided to start regulating the use of beauty filters. 

In Norway, it’s illegal for advertisers and social media influencers to share promotional photos online without disclosing whether the images have been altered.

France is also considering a similar law. 

“We will make it mandatory to display the use of a filter or retouching on photo and video content as part of a paid partnership," Bruno Le Maire, France's economy minister, tweeted in March. 

"We do this to limit the destructive psychological effects of these practices on the self-esteem of Internet users".

Similar regulations are being discussed in the UK under the framework of the Online Safety Bill. 

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But some experts argue that regulating this new technology will not address the crux of the problem. 

"The real problem is how people perceive themselves, not the filters per se," said Pamela Rutledge, a media psychologist.

"Research shows that every time you label the photo as retouched, it really doesn't do anything about body image in spite of the fact that you would think that it works," she told Euronews.

"The results are not very encouraging. But it would make me very happy if they funded media literacy and digital literacy training so that kids were really prepared because today's filter is going to be something else tomorrow," she explained.

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A survey ordered by the UK House of Commons in 2020 found that only 5 per cent of under-18-year-olds said they wouldn't consider changing their appearance by dieting or getting plastic surgery.

For more on this story, watch our report from The Cube in the media player above.

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