Instagram is banning plastic-surgery effect filters
Instagram is removing all augmented reality (AR) filters depicting or appearing to promote plastic surgery, following online concerns they harmed people’s mental health. (danielmooney/Instagram)
Jeremiah Rodriguez, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2019 8:52AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 23, 2019 12:12PM EDT
TORONTO -- Instagram is removing all augmented reality (AR) filters depicting or appearing to promote plastic surgery, following online concerns they harmed people’s mental health.
These include AR filters that morphed people’s faces to make them appear as if they’ve had lip injections, eye enhancements or facelifts.
The company behind Instagram’s AR face filter feature, Spark AR, made the announcement in a Facebook post, late last week. The company also said it would be removing all current effects associated with cosmetic surgery and putting off the approval of any new ones.
“We want Spark AR effects to be a positive experience and are re-evaluating our existing policies as they relate to well-being,” the company said, adding that it’d be “continuing to remove policy-violating effects as they are identified.”
“At this time, we're not able to provide exact timing on the new policy rollout, but we’ll share updates as soon as we can,” the post read.
In an email to CTVNews.ca, Instagram spokesperson Devi Narasimhan reiterated what the post said and wrote, “we’re re-evaluating our policies – we want AR effects to be a positive experience for people.”
The move to ban these filters appears to an attempt to curb the reported spread of body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) on the popular platform. The Mayo clinic defines BDD as a mental disorder involving an inability to stop lingering on one or more perceived defects in appearance.
In August, an update to the app allowed users to create their own filter effects that could be superimposed on people’s faces in videos and pictures.
Instagram's Effect gallery of face filters has proven to be one of the more popular features on the platform. Digital designer Teresa Fogolari’s “s Plastica” face filter -- which morphs your eyes and lips to mimic model Amanda Lepore’s face -- had been used over 200 million times, according to i-D.
Other popular filters with cosmetic surgery aesthetics are Holybucks -- which enhances a user’s lips and puts dollar signs over a person's face -- and Fixme that depicts a person’s face marked up by a cosmetic surgeon.
Dublin illustrator Daniel Mooney’s photo of him using his now-defunct FixMe filter went viral and was featured by numerous news outlets including BBC News. In a phone interview with CTVNews.ca, he said he came up with the filter “because I was bored … never did I intend for it to blow up like it did.”
“FixMe was only ever supposed to be a critique to plastic surgery, showing how unglamorous the process is with the markings and bruising,” he added in an email. “My intention was not to show a ‘perfect’ image, as you can see in the final result. ‘Perfection’ is over-rated.”
Mooney said he never intended for his filter to seem like an endorsement of plastic surgery but “more of a joke” at the industry’s expense. As for what he thinks about Instagram’s move, he feels it won’t fix the larger issue.
“I can see where Instagram is coming from, but for as long as the most followed accounts on Instagram are of heavily surgically ‘improved’ people, removing surgery filters won’t really change that much,” he said.
Instagram’s move is part of the platform’s clampdown on promoting cosmetic surgery. Last month, it implemented new rules surrounding the promotion of plastic surgery as well as diet and detox products.
The social media giant’s hope to protect people’s mental well-being would be in line with ongoing research, including one 2018 study that showed “exposure to idealized Instagram images (attractive peers, celebrities) has a detrimental impact on body image.”
Dr. Neelam Vashi, director of the Boston University Cosmetic and Laser Centre delved into this last month, telling The Independent, that “a new phenomenon called ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ has popped up, where patients are seeking out surgery to help them appear like the filtered versions of themselves.”