Influencers have their say on image editing crackdown

Ogilvy has said it will stop working with influencers who digitally edit their bodies in ad campaigns following the Digitally Altered Body Image Bill, which calls for influencers to disclose edited images. But how do influencers feel about the new rules?

The Drum and HypeAuditor asked influencers for their thoughts on the editing regulations proposed in the bill. While the majority believed it would be a positive step in combating body dysphoria, many questioned how it would be regulated and some raised concerns it could cause harm to an influencer’s own self-esteem.

Out of 28 influencers surveyed, nearly 80% said that some form of editing regulation was necessary and 70% were optimistic that a policy banning editing would help tackle social media harms.

“Body dysmorphia is a huge problem across a wide range of individuals in the UK, so anything that can tackle this is a huge win,” says one influencer taking part in the survey. “It will definitely help and the more bloggers show real bodies and faces, the easier it will be for those with issues to see that nobody is perfect,” says another.

One influencer, Rain Dove (@raindovemodel), says they expect the ban will actually strengthen their relationship with brands, because they will ”seek out people who are unafraid to be bare and free”.

Another says brands should be on board with an editing ban and that, if they aren’t, influencers shouldn’t be working with them. “It is a fantastic idea and will hopefully help people have a more realistic attitude to improving their bodies or stop them being so obsessed with unachievable celeb and influencer achievements.”

Others question whether smaller changes, like removing a blemish, should have to be declared.

How likely is it to work?

Makeup artist Tea Mene (@tea.mene) believes the bill is limited and unlikely to help. “Although the use of filters is now disclosed and impossible to hide, it doesn’t stop people from still presenting unrealistic versions of their body through lighting, posing etc,” she says. “Additionally, the bill only talks about ’digitally altered proportions’, but editing goes much deeper than that, including editing clothes, makeup and blemishes.”

TikTok star Sinead Bailey (@sxneadbailey) says: “I understand the thought process behind it, but a lot of editing is difficult to notice so I don’t know how it could be regulated.”

Could it be harmful to influencers?

Rain Dove says the editing ban is an “important and worthy step” to combat body dysphoria, but that any policy should be “nuanced and discussed”. Dove warns that, handled insensitively, “it could shame the model being used if an editor decides to retouch images of them without their consent”.

Dove adds: “Since the model is the literal face, some community members who see the retouch notes may actually end up targeting the model versus the brand or editor.”

What about when editing is at odds with art?

A cosplay blogger said clarification is needed for influencers in the “grey area” who edit for artistic reasons. “Slimming down a body to give unrealistic expectations for young people is indeed a problem, but when editing is needed for a specific photographic purpose other than vanity, it is difficult to know at what point we need to put a disclaimer at the bottom of every post,” she says.

A musician and influencer tells us: “Photoshop is a form of art and images should be treated as art, therefore grant the artist permission to create what they want on their canvas.“

She adds: “It is personally humiliating having to detail that I have altered my images. What’s next? Banning makeup because some people are so good at it that they look completely different to when they’re bare-faced, so we can protect people from feeling bad about themselves?”