Instagram to Remove Filters 'Associated With Plastic Surgery,' Whatever That Means

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The company responsible for Instagram’s face filters, Spark AR, announced on Facebook that it will begin “removing all effects associated with plastic surgery from the Instagram Effect Gallery,” “postponing approval of new effects associated with plastic surgery until further notice,” and “continuing to remove policy-violating effects as they are identified.” They did not offer a timeline of when users may begin to see the change, nor did the post identify the kinds of filters this new policy may target.

As pointed out by BuzzFeed, commenters on the post believe the policy will effect those filters made to mirror the process of getting plastic surgery, not necessarily the damaging ones that portray the final result: filters like “Plastica,” that expose a face mid-lift, or “Bad Botox,” which is exactly what it sounds like, or “Fix Me,” a filter that depicts the markings a surgeon makes on a patient’s skin before surgery. In an interview with the BBC, the creator of Fix Me, Daniel Mooney, said his filter was “only ever supposed to be a critique of plastic surgery, showing how unglamorous the process is with the markings and bruising,” adding that, he can “see where Instagram is coming from, but for as long as some of the most-followed accounts on Instagram are of heavily surgically ‘improved’ people, removing surgery filters won’t really change that much.”

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Disregarding Mooney’s misplaced earnestness in thinking that a plastic surgery filter would help people see how “unglamorous” the process is, he makes an interesting secondary point. Because Spark AR has yet to define what the company means when they promise to “remove all effects associated with plastic surgery,” it’s nearly impossible to anticipate what it could include—or even if it will hit the filters or accounts that have truly effected the way people see themselves. Call me skeptical, because I am, but Instagram doesn’t have a solid track record when it comes to instituting policies that better improve the experience of the user, especially when it comes to privacy or harassment. 

If removing face filters related to plastic surgery is Instagram’s end game, they’re going to have to chop a bunch more than just the “Plasticas” of the world. So many filters lighten and smooth skin, or make faces and noses appear thinner, and I’m not even talking FaceTune or CelebFace. These filters completely alter the user’s face to become some unobtainable version of themselves under the guise of beauty. Those are the filters, too, that have most recently come under fire for inspiring young people to go under the knife, not “FixMe.” If Instagram does want to make a difference, it’ll need to broaden their scope—whatever their scope may be.

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Maria Sherman

Senior Writer, Jezebel