Should social media face-altering filters be regulated

Should social media face-altering filters be regulated

May 29, 2023

Face-altering filters are applications that allow users to make subtle changes to their facial appearances, such as smoothing over wrinkles, acne, or scar or completely transforming their facial look. Mobile application development has played a significant role in the development of these filters. Some popular mobile apps for face filters, like FaceTune and Perfect365, have rolled out versions of short selfie videos that have increasingly grown in effectiveness and have gained more than 200 million downloads worldwide. However, the acceptance of these tools in the social media sphere has raised mixed concerns, with some people proposing or opposing for regulations to be mapped out concerning the tool usage.

On the opposing side stood a young mother from the US state of Indiana, Krystle Berger, who said: “I’m really just digitally giving myself the perfect make-up and lighting”. Also, a social media influencer, Brandon B, who has 5.6 million followers, says that image manipulation apps give some people increased confidence.

Phycologist Stuart Duff, a partner at UK practice Pearn Kandola, said: “Physical attraction has a very strong but often unconscious influence on our decision when it comes to buying products and services from others”. That is the more reason why social media influencers will always be tempted to use these tools to improve their online appearance because being good-looking sells.

While these apps build confidence, it has long been argued that such tools are unhealthy because they promote an unrealistic view of beauty that can be dangerous, especially for easily influenced teenagers and young adults. Dr Shira Brown, an emergency physician at South Niagara Hospital, Ontario, Canada, proposes regulation. She said: “We see the urgent mental health consequences of social media in our department daily, such as anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and depression”.

Most of them are greatly influenced by social media influencers which prompt the move to force social media advertisers and influencers often paid to promote products to admit when they have altered their physical image. For instance, in the UK, Conservative MP Luke Evans has long campaigned for this, saying: “For me, this is all about honesty”.

Norway's government has enacted a law to regulate photo or video manipulation, while France is in the process. The UK government is now looking at the same issue. However, it remains to be seen whether the law will target just adverts on social media or influencers as well.

In light of these, Sean Mao, the CEO of Perfect365, urges people to use its app safely and ethically. He adds: “We encourage people to use the app to express their creativity and not use the app with malicious intent to deceive others or misrepresent themselves”.