The Truth in Advertising Act Seeks to Rein in Excessive Photoshop Use in Ads


Excessive Photoshopping has gotten a lot of press in recent years, and anti-Photoshop advocates might finally get what they’ve been seeking thanks to a new bill that just hit Congress.

The Truth in Advertising Act (H.R. 4341) is a bi-partisan bill created by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethinen and Democratic Rep. Lois Capps that demands a plan be set forth to regulate excessive Photoshop use in advertisements.

Here’s a pertinent section of the bill, which you can read in full here:

(a) In general not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall submit to Congress a report that contains—

(1) a strategy to reduce the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted; and

(2) recommendations for an appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework with respect to such use.


These measures are being taken because, as the bill points out in its introduction, “The dissemination of unrealistic body standards has been linked to eating disorders … [and] has a particularly destructive health effect on children and teenagers.”

Noble intentions, and we still don’t know how they will set about regulating Photoshop use in ads, but all of this begs a couple of questions. First, does Congress realize how prevalent Photoshopping really is in advertisements? And second, is there anybody on Capitol Hill that is truly qualified to set rules that regulate such use?

We won’t deign to answer these questions, because there just isn’t enough information yet — perhaps they just intend to force advertisers to place a small notice on ads that have been heavily Photoshopped, which seems harmless enough — but that doesn’t mean we can’t start a discussion. So let us know what you think (preferably in a constructive, non-troll kind of way) in the comments.

(via SLR Lounge)

Image credits: Public domain photographs by the U.S. Congress

  • jimmy

    The first thing I thought of was to photoshop those photos for the irony.

  • CarolBeeTree

    It’s rather difficult to walk around with a Photoshopped image of yourself being projected onto your body 24/7. You seem to have missed my entire point.

  • CarolBeeTree

    Agreed. There is a difference. The topic here is about truth in advertising – about making a false statement or claim about a product or service, or using heavily-doctored images to insinuate that a certain look is actually achievable by humans in the real world.

  • Seth Matlins

    No worries about the insult Jack…(it was the line about the bill being well intentioned but dumb…and I didnt take it personally)…OK:

    1. As above
    2. Yes, a concerned citizen and father. My background is in marketing.

    3. Reference was just to how long you hope this takes
    4. You may be right.
    5. I understand your points. a) I dont see how the proposal overreaches. All it does is ask the FTC to recognize there is a significant problem and figure out how to address an absence of truth in advertising. If we were being prescriptive as some would like and saying no person in an ad ought ever be “photoshopped” again…that might be an overreach. Now, I don’t see it. b) It would be ideal if all of us could think for ourselves (both in and out of the moment of consumption). But, sadly, that’s not how the world or people work. As for children thinking for themselves…well, that’s not how the brain works. c) Yes…and they could be doing that now too. And body images issues (like mahy others) are sometimes created by more than ads alone. This is true…but many of those have first amendment protections less limited than, as you’ve pointed out, commercial speech And you’re right, this is not a silver bullet or a panacea. Like many laws (if passed) there will be ways for those what want to get around it to get around it. As for the type of models advertisers can use…we are not legislating ideals, so that will remain their choice then as it is now. We are only seeking to protect children and consumers from the damages done by these deceptive ads. If I thought I could fix everything else I wanted to and close every loophole I disagreed with, I’d certainly try. But I don’t…and in this case “better” beats the status-quo and unchanged, IMO.

    Lastly, backatcha. I don’t agree with all of what you’ve said…but I 100% appreciate both it and how you’ve said it all. seth

  • Elanna

    Darn! I thought I’d have to see the REAL Oprah’s image on the front of her “O” magazine while waiting for check-out at the market

  • Woody ONeal

    Yup, Congress sure has their priorities straight. What a load of crap.

  • Woody ONeal

    “The dissemination of unrealistic body standards has been linked to eating disorders … [and] has a particularly destructive health effect on children and teenagers.”


    Government subsidy on corn production and tobacco can be linked to obesity (high fructose corn syrup) and lung disease (cigarettes).

    Congress…don’t worry America, we’ll do the thinking for ya.

  • Andres Trujillo

    While I am sure that there are some “studies” behind all this, but I am starting to feel (and this is just my opinion), like the whole Photoshop problem is mirroring the Video Game industry scandals.

    I do not mind a disclaimer saying that the image has been edited, or some regulations based on claims (an anti aging cream should not use tons of photoshop to edit skin, then again, they shouldn’t use a 20 something year old woman for that advertising, but I digress). But, wouldn’t be easier for parents and educators to be more involve instead?

  • Rob Elliott

    I did actually read it. When writing this I didn’t use Aim.

    I do realize that it is just a request for recommendations from the FCC.

    But it still isn’t asking for just digital issues… and seems to be targeting all image changes.

  • pgb0517

    So, more laws and regulations are needed to protect the latest whining class. How exactly would you write the regs, anyway? Would a magazine have to add multiple pages explaining every change made in Photoshop, or just a link to where they explain it online? Is zapping a zit OK, in your opinion, as one who would write this massive new body of legislation? Or would you just outlaw the use of Photoshop for anything other than basic toning and sharpening? How you gonna enforce it — will OSHA be going around to inspect how Photoshop is being used? Will fines be issued? More laws are not the answer to your problem.

  • pgb0517

    No, Republicans are not about personal freedoms; nor are Democrats. They are all about the power to control.

    As to Seth: Yes, the First Amendment does apply to advertising, only the courts have ruled that government has more power over commercial speech than other speech. I think that this proposed idiot law would go well into restrictions that courts would say is too far. I hope so, anyway. What a waste of time.

  • pgb0517

    What exactly is the “false” advertising that this bill seeks to fix? If a woman is “photoshopped” to look like Barbie, but the dress she is wearing is what is being advertised, and the dress is accurately portrayed, what is the violation? What is false? Even if the ad is for makeup, and the woman’s eyes have been enlarged but the makeup is portrayed accurately, what is the violation?

  • Corey Smith

    I really doubt this will get passed but just to be on the safe side i went ahead and e-mailed my senators.

  • EliyahuBenYisroel

    Part of the problem this bill recognizes is the effect of heavily photoshopped models on young people. The message they’re getting is that if you don’t look like this, you’re unacceptable and an ugly failure.

  • Red Burgh

    I understand the sensitive nature of this problem, but as an artist and graphic designer, I don’t want the government telling me how to use Photoshop. Ever.

  • EPOC

    SILLINESS! This is merely digital make up. I have seen make up artists and photography tricks without digital make up that are equally if not more “misrepresentative” of the truth. It is merely one tool for creative.

  • EPOC

    I think we should have a Truth in Politicians Act that makes lawmakers act with total candour