Photoshop law gets scientific backing

Microsoft provides first research proving link between anorexic images in media and fans’ desire to starve themselves.

Rachel Adatto 370 (photo credit: knesset)
Rachel Adatto 370
(photo credit: knesset)
It took then-Kadima MK Rachel Adatto two years to push through a bill banning the use of Photoshop to “remake” the images of models in advertising pictures because she needed to prove that the images and the eating disorder were linked scientifically.
Although Adatto, a gynecologist and lawyer by training, was not reelected, she now has solid evidence. Microsoft has completed research in Israel and the US that found a clear connection between the exposure of young people to overly-thin models and the development of the potentially deadly eating disorder of anorexia.
Dr. Elad Yom-Tov, of Microsoft- Israel’s research and development center, and Dr. Dana Boyd, of its R&D center in New York, examined the connection between web searches for performers and models regarded as anorexic and the fans’ searches for websites with tips on to “how to become anorexic.”
Microsoft says this was the first peer-reviewed published study to establish such a link.
Adatto’s Photoshop bill became law in 2012. Besides banning the digital alteration of photos to enhance thinness in advertisements, it also bars anorexic models from posing.
Models who wish to appear in such ads have to be examined regularly by physicians to determine that their body mass index is not so low that they are seriously underweight.
The Microsoft research found that anorexic models and celebrities appearing on websites led to an almost two-fold increase in subsequent searches for these people and the development of anorexia itself. People who develop anorexia tend to become more interested in celebrities who look as if they are starving.
Media coverage that does not mention cases of very low weight results in a 33 percent growth in the likelihood that the fans will become anorexic.
When the coverage clearly discusses anorexia, the tendency for searches is relatively small.
When thinness is praised as a sign of beauty, web surfers try to copy them. When the way they look is identified as a disease, not many are keen on aping them.
The research was recently published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Adatto, who received news of the study from The Jerusalem Post, said she was grateful to hear this as she had constantly been looking for scientific evidence of the link.
“Only after we brought some scientific evidence did we succeed in eliminating the Justice Ministry’s opposition to the bill,” she said.
Additional research would bolster the importance of the law and the need for cooperation among all factors dictating the erroneous view that “skinny is beautiful,” the physician and former MK said.
She added that the law was not perfect because it was civil rather than criminal in nature.
“This was forced on us as a compromise to advance the legislation,” she told the Post.
“Over-involvement of MKs’ legal advisers interfered. Thus, one can only file a civil suit for damages. We are now preparing a lawsuit against one of the companies that bluntly violates the law.”
Newspapers or other media that show anorexic models as an editorial spread and not an advertisement for fashion or other products are not included under the law.