There’s no shortage of studies focused on understanding the effects of social media use on people, especially adolescents. Apps like Instagram may perpetuate damaging myths about physical appearance and lead people to suffer debilitating mental health conditions, low self-esteem, and even seek cosmetic surgery at higher than expected rates.
As reported by TechCrunch, France’s lower parliament, l’Assemblée nationale, has passed a bill aimed at cracking down on misleading social media posts and images, requiring social media influencers to label images and videos that use filters or have undergone image editing in apps like Photoshop.
The bill is promoted not as a punitive measure against influencers but as a protective measure against social media users, who some French politicians believe are experiencing mental health issues such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or depression resulting from exposure to misleading social media influencers.
Beyond the required filter and photo editing labels, the bill also restricts social media influencers from promoting cosmetic surgery, financial services — including cryptocurrency — and scam products. In some cases, influencers can continue to promote specific services but must include a warning, such as when pitching gambling products, including video games with loot boxes.
The proposed law continues, requiring influencers to label paid promotions and disclose companies promoting training programs. The law also bans the showcase of products not approved for use in the European Union.
While the focus is on protecting users, the proposed bill does have teeth. It proposes punishments of up to six months in prison and a fine of €300,000 for influencers who violate the law.
An immediate rebuttal to the bill is questioning who counts as an influencer. The bill’s authors have also answered that, defining an influencer as someone who utilizes their reputation to share and promote content, including products or services, in exchange for financial or other benefits.
While there remains some gray area, perhaps, about precisely who is affected by the new law, it’s clear that the French government intends to identify influencers and hold them accountable to the new rules.
Before that happens, the bill must be approved by the senate. Experts believe that the cross-party bill will pass without significant opposition.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.