Will Instagram's New Restrictions Actually Prevent the Promotion of Toxic Diet Products?
The rules are a step in the right direction, but they might not be enough.
Jameela Jamil is celebrating a victory today that has nothing to do with The Good Place, the show she stars on, which is up for an Emmy at this weekend's ceremony. Instead, she's celebrating a win for her activist work.
Elle UK reported Wednesday that Instagram is implementing new guidelines related to the promotion of detox teas, diet pills, "appetite-suppressing" lollipops, and other related diet products — a cause close to the actress's heart. The new rules stipulate that any post that promotes a weight loss product or cosmetic procedure that has a price tag affixed (or any kind of incentive to buy) will not be shown to users under the age of 18.
The platform is also banning any content that includes a "miraculous" claim about diet and weight loss products as well as a link to purchase or discount code. Posts that violate these community guidelines will be removed by the platform in the same way that other "inappropriate content" (which still includes nipples, by the way) is reported and then removed.
So, no longer will it be up to Jamil to police the posts by Kim and Khloé Kardashian, two of the most visible offenders when it comes to posting diet teas and shakes. It looks like the sisters will have to find a new product to sponsor.
Or will they?
Though clearly a move in the right direction, the guidelines seem pretty easy to side step.
According to Elle UK, "If an influencer posts a picture of themselves sipping diet tea, promoting their discount code, and telling their followers how they managed to lose 10lbs rapidly solely due to the tea, it will be removed for violating the new community guidelines."
However, instead of writing an egregious claim that a tea helped an influencer lose "30 pounds in 3 days," one could still write that they lost 30 pounds in an ambiguous amount of time by incoporating the tea into their "lifestyle" or "regimen" — a less obvious lie, and one that seemingly complies with the new rules.
The Kardashians rarely post "miraculous" claims, and they also don't tend to imply that any progress they make is "solely" due to their supplements. "This program is giving me a kick in the right direction that I need," Kim wrote back in January. "These meal replacement shakes are so good and they're helping me get my tummy back to flat."
Additionally, the Kardashians usually promote sales that are already in progress (ie. 30% off for Black Friday), rather than their own discount code — and they could easily avoid the "incentive to buy" portion of the rule by not including such a number.
It appears that the guidelines have been retroactively applied (users under 18 cannot view the above Instagrams, as they contain incentives to buy diet products), and it is of note that the same posts which Jamil criticized haven't been removed .
This is not to discount the work of activists like Jamil, who herself is largely responsible for bringing Instagram's attention to the subject in the first place. It was Jamil, who, after pleading with Kim and Khloé to discontinue their promotion of the teas and shakes to their combined 246 million followers, launched a petition asked Instagram to enact the very ban they put in place. More than 200,000 people signed on to her cause.
In a new Glamour profile out today, Jamil clarified her position is not against the Kardashians, specifically, just against this one partiuclar action. "I don’t hate those girls ... I just want them to stop selling laxatives, and then I will get off that dick," she explained rather colorfully. “That’s all I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to attack anyone. But if you have a lot of power and influence and money, and you’re using yours irresponsibly, and other people aren't aware that they're being sold a lie, I’m gonna step on that dick.”
The adverse effects of the teas and shakes promoted by the Kardashian sisters have been well documented, and nutritionist Tracy Lockwood Beckerman has confirmed to InStyle on multiple occasions that "appetite-suppressing" lollipops, diet teas, and diet shakes can wreak havoc on the digestive system. "These shakes are beyond dangerous to promote to society," she told us.
Additionally, the promotion of diet culture to young, impressionable women has, time and time again, been proven to contribute to body image and eating disorders among young women.
“This is a huge win for our ongoing fight against the diet/detox industry,” Jamil told The Guardian of the new rules. “Facebook and Instagram taking a stand to protect the physical and mental health of people online sends an important message out to the world."
Instagram's new rules are not for nothing, and they're definitely a major win for Jamil, as it shows that she truly is affecting change. But the only way to really prevent the harmful effects of such products from reaching those most-vulnerable consumers is to not promote them in first place. And it doesn't look like Kim has plans to alter her strategy for sponsors anytime soon — just last April, she told the New York Times, "You’re going to get backlash for almost everything so as long as you like it or believe in it or it’s worth it financially, whatever your decision may be, as long as you’re okay with that."