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Anyone who's looked at a magazine or ad campaign knows that no one is Photoshop-free. In some cases, photoshopping models goes too far -- so much so that there is a website devoted to "Photoshop disasters." The debate about whether this kind of photo alteration is appropriate because of the effects on women's self-esteem has been ongoing for some time, but now two legislators in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill to curb the practice.
The Truth in Advertising Act, if passed, would direct the Federal Trade Commission to study the practice used by advertisers to alter the facial and body characteristics of the people photographed, "and to develop recommendations and a framework to address it." Working with outside groups who have a stake in such legislation -- such as consumer advocates, industry execs, and medical groups -- the FTC would develop a strategy for reducing the use of overly Photoshopped images.
The bill follows in the footsteps of the American Medical Association's 2011 recommendation that advertising associations work with children's advocacy groups to stop altering images in a way that promotes unreasonable and unrealistic body image. The Truth in Advertising bill is supported by many organizations, among them the American Medical Association, the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, the Eating Disorders Coalition, Women Action Media, and Women In News and Media.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-California), one of the sponsors of the bill, stated, "As a former school nurse, I know how influential unrealistic advertising images can be, especially on our children and teenagers." She added, "We must do more to ensure that our nation's young people have the tools necessary to distinguish real life from fiction as they form a healthy body image."
Rep. Capps is joined by a colleague from across the aisle, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who stated that the purpose of the bill is to "ensure that our young men and women do not fall prey to the false expectations of photo-shopped images. Our young people should be taught to lead healthy lifestyles, not conform to some advertiser's fake idea of beauty."
In some instances, companies can take technology too far. If this act is passed, we may experience a sea change in unrealistic advertising. The bill will probably not be met without objection, perhaps on First Amendment expression grounds, but since we're dealing with commercial "speech," the claims will be held to a lesser standard. That said, it's hard to argue that some of the photo alterations are nothing but ridiculous.
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