Congresswomen Introduce Bill to Regulate Overzealous Photoshopping

After years of discussion and outcry (not just from this here website) about Photoshop and its potentially harmful effects on body image, two Congresswomen are actually doing something about it.

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Rep. Lois Capps have co-sponsored a bill entitled H.R. 4341: Truth in Advertising Act of 2014, which calls for photoshop regulation in media and advertising. Here’s a snippet:

3. Report by Federal Trade Commission

(a) In general Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall submit to Congress a report that contains—

(1) a strategy to reduce the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted; and

(2) recommendations for an appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework with respect to such use.

On Thursday, according to Time, lobbyists headed to Washington, D.C. to drum up support for the bill, which hit the Hill last month. A group called the Eating Disorders Coalition met with lawmakers on March 27th about the Truth in Advertising and their worry that the practice often takes “Kim Kardashian’s body and makes it Miley Cyrus’.”

Just as commercial copy watchdogs keep an eye on blatant product lies, like the Sensa fraud case involving Octavia Spencer recently, photoshop truthers (I just made that term a thing, don’t fight it) want to make limit over-the-top image alterations. They point to hard facts which show the harm teens suffer after prolonged exposure to digitally enhanced flat stomachs and slimmed noses.

“Just as with cigarette ads in the past, fashion ads portray a twisted, ideal image for young women,” Capps said. “And they’re vulnerable. As sales go up, body image and confidence drops.”

The bill doesn’t call for the Federal Trade Commission to regulate advertisers' use of Photoshop themselves; rather, the federal government would analyze the offending images and decide what to do about them from there. However, here a question arises: what would constitute excessive Photoshopping? Is this going to be like United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's infamous quote about obscenity? We'll know it when we see it?

The problem isn't just here at home; the amount of image alterations on American television alone has proven to be problematic even when it is exported. Researchers studied the affect of western entertainment in Fiji, and it only took three years for the some of the island’s young girls to begin thinking their own bodies weren’t good enough. Some developed eating disorders.

Since the FTC can already shoot down blatantly untruthful ads, Dan Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers says these Photoshop truthers need to be more specific.

“It can’t just be the photoshopping that they go after, it would have to be tied to something specific. Are you just going to say that when ever someone photoshops it’s a per se violation? I think that would be going too far.”

Image via Target.