What Is Norway’s New Picture Retouching Legislation?

Communication and contact with our friends and family have become convenient thanks to social media. However, social media has many negative effects on our lives. The internet is full of models showing off their flawless and unrealistic bodies, which can add to the body’s insecurities.

To temper these unrealistic standards of beauty, Norway passed a law requiring influencers and advertisers to label their retouched photos. We’re going to look at what that law is and how it affects you.

What is the law on retouched photos in Norway?

The new law passed by the Norwegian government requires influencers who are sponsored for social media posts and brands to disclose any change to their photos with a ministry-approved label. Essentially, you will now be notified every time an image has been edited.

norwegian retouching law

This Retouched Photo Act applies to images that have changed their height, shape, skin color, or the use of filters to take photos. Any exaggeration of muscles, enlarged lips and narrowing waists requires labeling.

It is human nature to compare oneself with others and unfortunately social media has made the situation even worse. When we see unrealistic body images on the internet, we can easily compare our imperfections to Photoshop models.

Related: Negative Impact of Social Media on People and Users

The effects on our mental health of inadequate or impossible standards of beauty created by edited online photos are extreme. It can lead to decreased self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression.

The Effects of Image Manipulation on Young People

If you are unhappy with the way you look, this is not new. With the advent of social media, some of us have become obsessed with our body image. The prettier you look, the more likes and reactions you’ll get on social media. This need for social attention and approval can make us feel insecure about how we look.

A 2016 study by Taylor and Francis Online of 144 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 showed that exposure to altered social media images negatively impacted the young participants. In addition, participants rated processed images higher than natural images in the experiment, which shows how unrealistic standards of beauty affect the younger generation.

Related: TikTok, Instagram Adding Resources for Users Affected by Negative Body Image

If you are not already comfortable with your personality, you could easily be influenced by what you see online without realizing that it is far from reality. Young women in particular, who see those machined slim bodies, flawless complexions, and beautiful hair, desire the perfect body and become obsessive in the process. It is no longer a choice, but the pursuit of the impossible.

And since there is no such thing as a flawless body, you end up hating yourself. This inability to achieve the desired result leads to psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and anorexia. Especially in Norway, where anorexia is the third leading cause of death in young women, concerns about body image, mental health and low self-esteem are growing.

The need for Norway’s new law

The number of mentally ill patients requiring treatment in Norway has exploded in recent years. Around 70,000 children and young people suffer from mental health problems, a high number for a country with a small population of 5.4 million.

Psychiatric patients in Norway

Image source: Statista

Advertising and social media can put a lot of pressure on you to achieve the ideal body you see online, which is often a digitally edited figure. These social media images, filtered and edited with Photoshop, can set unrealistic standards of beauty if you want to look like the models you see online.

The new law names body pressure as the most prominent cause of poor mental health in children and young adults. It aims to reduce the body’s insecurity by preventing advertisers and influencers from sharing fake photos that we see on media platforms and ads without admitting them.

Many online influencers have welcomed the new law as a move to challenge extreme body ideals. They say the new law will bring a sense of reality to unattainable or misleading perceptions of beauty that have long influenced our lives.

Many celebrities in the past have urged magazines not to retouch their photos, understanding that doing so can create physical insecurities in many people.

In 2015, Zendaya, a Hollywood actress and popular online character, shared it before and after photo editing to show how differently edited images are from reality.

Zendaya retouching

Image source: Zendaya / Instagram

Madeleine Pedersen, a Norwegian influencer, admits that unrealistic standards of beauty have made us feel insecure about our physical appearance. She shares that she has also struggled with physical problems in the past due to social media. The influencer says we need to know that what we see online is an original image or retouched.

Norwegian influencer Eirin Kristiansen says it’s a step in the right direction, but right now it seems like a shortcut rather than a permanent fix. She expresses her opinion that just putting badges on social media posts does not solve any mental health problem.

Is This Law an Answer to Mental Health Problems?

Social media influences our body image. According to a study by the UK Parliament, only 5% of under 18s said they were happy with their appearance and did not consider dieting or surgery to change their appearance.

Body image statistics

Image source: British Parliament

The decision to disclose changes to photos seems to be the right decision by the Norwegian government. However, this will not solve the real problem for us as there is no simple solution to this complex issue.

We often edit brightness, saturation, contrast, and other aspects in our images to make them look appealing. These features are available in most social media apps. We also know how professional photographers manipulate lighting and use filters to make models look their best.

These influencer, corporate, and social media platform regulations and restrictions don’t get to the root of the problem. Social media platforms like Facebook mention personal health in their advertising policies and share resources to help.

However, we can make more enthusiastic efforts not to be misled on social networks. The long-term solution to body image problems lies in a different approach. Maybe raise awareness or accept more realistic body standards.

Norway’s photo law triggers an important discussion

Image manipulation is a factor that affects physical dissatisfaction and psychological problems in us. Although Norway’s amended photo ordinance raises awareness of changing pictures online, it does not entirely solve the mental health problem in young men and women.

It will be interesting to see what other countries and social media channels are doing to address this pressing issue. Norway’s Photo Editing Act is a wake-up call to how social media images manipulate us and negatively affect our self-image.

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About the author

Sampada Ghimir
(4 articles published)

Sampada Ghimire is a content marketer for marketing and technology startups. She specializes in helping business owners make their content marketing targeted, strategic, and profitable using effective and well-planned content, lead generation, and social media strategies. She loves writing about marketing, business, and technology – anything that makes life easier.

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