Report: Instagram Continues to Promote Eating Disorders and Diet Pills to Teens

Mark Zuckerberg swallows a giggle. Drew Angerer /Getty
Drew Angerer /Getty

According to a recent report from VICE News, despite recent backlash over the effect of Instagram on the mental health of teen users, the Facebook-owned platform continues to promote eating disorders and diet pills to its users.

VICE News reports that as Facebook faces increased scrutiny following the release of a number of internal documents showing that the company is aware its products can have a negative effect on the mental health of younger users, new research shows that the company is continuing to promote products and content that could be damaging to the mental health of teens.

Sad teen with a phone in her bedroom - stock photo Single sad teen holding a mobile phone lamenting sitting on the bed in her bedroom with a dark light in the background

Sad teen with a phone in her bedroom – stock photo (Getty Images)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for the 8th annual Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California on November 3, 2019. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for the 8th annual Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California on November 3, 2019. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP)

In a report titled “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show,” the WSJ claimed that Facebook was aware that its photo-sharing app Instagram can have a negative effect on the body image of young women.

The WSJ wrote:

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Now new research by the activist group SumOfUs appears to show that Instagram still displays posts promoting eating disorders, diet pills, and skin whitening products to teenagers. Instagram has banned some hashtags relating to eating disorders but researchers found that users can get around these restrictions by using creative hashtags that have racked up over tens of millions of posts.

Researchers examined 240 sample posts linked to eating disorder hashtags and discovered that over half of them promoted eating disorders while 90 percent of them promoted unproven appetite suppressants. The report authors wrote: “The posts demonstrate how Instagram enables and encourages users to engage in negative talk, self-harm, and extreme dieting.”


“This research confirms that, despite Facebook’s promises to curb such content, Instagram remains flooded with toxic content that poses an immediate danger to the lives of its users, and particularly to teenagers and young people,” the report’s authors wrote.

“The platform tracks and targets some of the most vulnerable in society—young teens and people of color—with content that heavily promotes unrealistic and unattainable Western beauty standards, and offers false solutions like plastic surgery, skin whitening, and extreme dieting to trigger body image issues and lower self-esteem.”

Read more at VICE News here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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