Death of the diet tea: Instagram announces new policies to remove ‘miraculous’ diet product posts

Laura Hampson

Instagram has taken a stand against diet tea culture promoted by influencers, including the Kardashians, by announcing new policies that will remove and restrict these kind of promotional weight loss posts.

The new policies implemented by the one billion user-strong platform have been put in place in a bid to continue to help ease the pressure young people feel by scrolling through Instagram, to look and live a certain way.

In addition, Instagram will be restricting posts for users under 18 years old that promote the use of certain weight loss products or cosmetic procedures and that have an incentive to buy or includes a price.

It will also be removing posts to all users that make a ‘miraculous claim’ about certain diet or weight loss products and is linked to a commercial offer like a discount code. These posts will no longer be allowed under Instagram’s community guidelines and there will be an added functionality to allow users to report the posts that don’t fall under the same guidelines.

The policy means that posts promoting products such as diet teas with a caption like ‘this helped me to lose 10 pounds really fast’ with a discount code to purchase will be removed.

Does this mean the Kardashian-led diet tea era is over?

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Speaking to the Standard, Instagram’s Public Policy Manager Emma Collins says: “If [a Kardashian’s] Instagram post is pulled into the policy of promoting diet products or procedures for sale it will be removed. The Kardashians are people we continue to have collaborative conversations with, they’ll be made aware of the change.

“It’s not in the interest of the broader community to be exposed to these kind of branded miracle claims. We’ve also gone a step further where young people are concerned and the action that we’re taking for under 18s is that any branded promotion of weight loss products or undertaking of cosmetic procedures will be restricted so under 18s won’t see them.”

A 2017 study of 14 to 24-year-olds by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement found that Instagram was the worst social media platform for a young person's mental health and last year a study from the Pew Research Centre found that 37 per cent of teenagers feel 'pressure' to post content that will get a high number of likes and comments. Earlier this year Instagram began testing feeds without the like counts shown and this latest policy is another step towards lessening social media pressure on young people.

Actress Jameela Jamil has been a prominent voice in advocating against weight loss products on Instagram, starting the hugely popular Instagram account @i_weigh that has amassed over 837K followers.

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Speaking about the policy changes, Jamil said: “This is a huge win for our ongoing fight against the diet and detox industry. Facebook and Instagram taking a stand to protect the physical and mental health of people online, sends an important message out to the world.

“As someone who struggled with an eating disorder for most of my youth, I’ve personally known and suffered the perils of the devious side of the diet and detox industry. A focus of our advocacy since inception, it is a proud day for “I Weigh” and a day of hope for our generation, who deserve respect and protection from the celebrities and influencers that they follow.”

Dr Ysabel Gerrard, lecturer in digital media and society at the University of Sheffield was one of the experts consulted for Instagram's new policy changes. Gerrard tells the Standard that while she doesn't think the new policies are perfect, they are 'certainly a step in the right direction'.

Gerrard continues: "I think one of the main things it will do, in terms of the effect, is that it will contribute to a bigger culture shift and be a positive force for the war on bodies - particularly female bodies. Young women have been targeted with products, creams and injectables and these policies will ease and lessen the exposure of these products for people who are still mentally developing.

"Miraculous claims means they aren't sustainable. Products like skinny teas, these have been publicly criticised as they offer short term solutions to something that naturally takes a lot longer. It's hard to blame social media solely for influencing eating disorders, but the content we see on social media is a contributing factor to how we feel about our bodies."

Despite restricting posts promoting weight loss products and cosmetic surgeries to under 18s, Instagram didn't want to restrict this content to over 18s in large part due to the trans community on the platform.

Collins explained: “There’s a really thriving community of trans activists who use Instagram to talk about transition and that inevitably veers on to talking about cosmetic procedures and we didn’t want to inadvertently shut any of that down.”

Instagram will roll out the additional reporting functionalities over the new few weeks that will allow users to report a post if they think it is in violation of the new policy.

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