Pin It
Kendall Jenner
Kendall JennerVia Instagram/@johwska

Emily in prison? French influencers could face up to two years in jail

The French government might soon ban influencers from promoting cosmetic surgery and make it mandatory to label filtered images. But will this actually help alleviate our current self-esteem crisis?

Today, the French government will kick off discussions around a bill that would put strict regulations on influencers, including making it mandatory for them to label filtered or doctored images and ban them from promoting cosmetic surgery as part of a paid partnership.

On Friday, the country’s finance minister Bruno Le Marie said the measures would help “limit the destructive psychological effects of these practices on Internauts’ esteem” and that there would be a “zero-tolerance approach” to anyone who does not respect the rules. According to the bill, breaches of the new law will result in up to two years of jail time and €30,000 in fines. Not only that, but influencers that are found guilty will not be allowed to use social media or continue their careers.  

As well as making it a crime to not disclose filtered or photoshopped images, influencers would be banned from promoting cosmetic surgery, cryptocurrency and gambling as part of paid partnerships. The bill covers all French influencers and those influencers who live abroad but earn money from sponsoring products sold in France.

On Monday, Le Marie told Franceinfo that these regulations were not a “fight” against influencers or a way to stigmatise them, but instead were a system to protect them. “Influencers must be subject to the same rules as those that apply to traditional media,” he said, adding the internet “is not the Wild West”. In 2017, in an effort to combat eating disorders, the French government passed a law that required the words “photographie retouchée” (retouched photograph) to accompany all advertising images in which the models’ bodies had been altered.

It’s clear that the constant viewing and consumption of unrealistic digital content is a mental health risk and that something needs to be done around filtered and photoshopped images on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. The rise of social media over the last decade has coincided with a self-esteem crisis. Eating disorder rates are skyrocketing, and half of both men and women experience body dysmorphia. Meanwhile, cosmetic surgery procedures and non-surgical aesthetic procedures like filler and Botox are increasing.

Research done by body care brand WooWoo found that one in ten British women said they “hate everything about their bodywith over a third saying pressure about their bodies came from social media. Research by Dove found that 50 per cent of girls believe they don’t look good enough without photo editing. And as the technology around filters continues to advance and become undetectable, the consequences could become even more severe. Various efforts over the years have been made to alleviate these pressures. In 2021, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that influencers need to state when they use a beauty filter to promote skincare or cosmetics in the UK. The same year, Norway passed a law requiring images in which the subject’s body size, shape, or skin have been altered, either before or after the photo is taken, to carry a label designed by the government ministry

However, previous research has suggested that merely labelling something as retouched or filtered doesn’t necessarily stop the viewer from wanting to achieve the look. In a Dazed article last month, beauty culture critic Jessica DeFino argued that it is misguided to say transparency is a net positive, pointing to a study which found photoshop transparency on advertising and marketing images was ineffective. She quoted Dr Clare Chambers: “If advertisers continue to use models who look ‘perfect’ according to a narrow, unattainable standard, then labels don’t do anything to disrupt that ideal of the power it holds over us.” 

Not only that, but a study done by the University of Warwick found that flagging models as ‘enhanced’ or ‘manipulated’ (counterintuitively) increases our desire to emulate their appearance. “Drawing attention to digitally altered images may not, as one might expect and hope, reduce the aspiration to attain contemporary beauty ideals,” the paper states. “Beauty ideals cannot be easily challenged by such interventions. Beauty ideals are culturally constructed and are carriers of meaning and value.”

Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.