Should Sites Like Facebook Ban Pro-Ana Internet Groups?

Happy National Eating Disorders Awareness Week! An eating disorder charity is calling on MySpace and Facebook to do something about pro-anorexia groups. "We believe that the sites should act responsibly," says Susan Ringwood of B-eat, an eating disorder charity. "They have acted to remove other content that is seen as 'dangerous', or could encourage young people to do dangerous things." Research shows that young women exposed to pro-ana websites feel more negative, have lower self-esteem and are more likely to compare their bodies with other women, reports BBC News. But a spokesperson for MySpace explains: "It's often very tricky to distinguish between support groups for users who are suffering from eating disorders and groups that might be termed as 'pro' anorexia or bulimia."

However, the BBC interviews a recovering anorexic named Shannon Bonnette, who says reading web pages about anorexia actually helped her. "What I found through visiting those sites was that there was a common theme — everybody stays miserable," she says. Do social networking sites have a duty to protect members from "dangerous" eating disorder information? If you're looking for that kind of stuff, can't you just find it anywhere? Or is it important for sites to take a stand, make a point of shutting down eating disorder-related groups, out of principle? And who does the banning? Who decides what is "dangerous" and what is just a support group? In any case, it doesn't seem as though the big sites are interested: "Many Facebook groups relate to controversial topics; this alone is not a reason to disable a group," says a rep.

Pro-Anorexia Site Clampdown Urged [BBC News]

Pro-Anorexia Website Warning [ITN]

Related: It's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week [5 Resolutions]