Images promoting potentially life-threatening eating disorders are thriving on Instagram and need to be cracked down on in the same way as graphic self-harm images, leading charities and experts have said.
The social media giant’s focus on removing graphic images of self-harm did not go far enough, they said, and young people also faced being confronted with pro-anorexia images due to little policing on the site.
The Guardian has discovered thousands of hashtags and accounts promoting anorexia, including diaries of weight loss, alarming pictures and comments on goal weights.
These accounts often include a comment saying: “Please don’t report, just block,” to circumvent the website’s approach, which requires people to report content that they find worrying.
The director of external affairs for the eating disorder charity Beat said content promoting anorexia and bulimia was prevalent online. “So-called pro-ana and pro-mia content is widespread on social media and can be very harmful for people suffering from an eating disorder,” Tom Quinn said. “People will not develop an eating disorder by being exposed to images that glamorise eating disorders, but research shows that such content helps perpetuate the illnesses for people who are already suffering.
By Sarah Marsh
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