The issue of photo manipulation on social media has been a concern for many, but should the authorities intervene now that the technology is becoming increasingly widespread in videos?
“It’s not drastically changing my personality,” insists Krystle Berger, who posts photos and videos on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. “I’m actually digitally giving myself the perfect makeup and lighting,” she says.
Mrs. Berger, a young mother from the state of Indiana in the United States, pays by subscribing to an app called Face Tune, which has been downloaded more than 200 million times worldwide.
The app allows users to both make subtle changes to their facial features, such as smoothing out wrinkles, or alternatively – completely change their appearance. For example, they can slim their face, change the shape and size of their eyes, or give themselves a digital nose job.
Initially only able to work on photos, two years ago FaceTune launched a version for short selfie videos and has since grown in effectiveness.
Meanwhile, another popular app that allows users to edit their social media photos – Perfect365 – is set to launch its video version this year.
FaceTune is owned by Israeli-company Lytrix, which two years ago was reported to have valued the company at $1.8bn (£1.4bn).
Lytrix founder Zeev Farbman says “the name of the game” is making the app as easy to use as possible. “You want to give people 80% of the power with 20% of the complexity of professional software. That’s the game we’re trying to play.”
But such devices have long been argued to be unhealthy, because they promote an unrealistic view of beauty, especially for impressionable children and adults. For example, 80% of teenage girls said they had popped up in online photos by the age of 13, according to a 2021 study by skincare brand Dove.
While no one is calling for the technology to be banned, there is a growing movement to force social media advertisers and influencers — often paid people — to accept changing their physical image. .
Norway in 2010 In 2021, these two social media groups introduced a law that would require them to indicate that a photo has been retouched. France is now going one step further, and is in the process of asking for the same requirement, but for photos and videos.
Meanwhile, the UK is now facing a similar issue as the government’s online security bill continues to make its way through Parliament. But it remains to be seen whether the law will target social media ads or influencers as well.
A spokesman for the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said: “The Government recognizes the risks posed by digitally processed content and takes the issue very seriously.”
Conservative MP Luke Evans has long campaigned for advertisers and influencers to embrace changing their image on social media.
He wants to see the new law “future-proofed” so it requires the same admissions for modified videos and other technological advances.
“It’s imperative that we have broad awareness and transparency around these new technologies,” he says. “For me, it’s all about loyalty.”
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Mr. Farbman’s response is that “this conversation has always been there … the acceptance of these tools has grown over time.” He added that it is a matter of freedom of speech. “It’s always strange to me that a company decides to limit a user’s freedom of expression because of aesthetic or moral concerns.”
Shane Mao, CEO of San Francisco-based Perfect365, urged people to use the app “in a safe and ethical way.” He added, “We encourage people to use the app to express their creativity and not use the app for malicious purposes to deceive others or mislead themselves.”
Some social media influencers are always tempted to use tricks to improve their online image – because being good-looking sells, says psychologist Stuart Duff, a partner in the UK practice of Pearn Kandola.
“Physical attractiveness has a very strong, but often unconscious, influence on our decisions to buy products and services from others,” he says.
“When asked what is most important, we often talk about the importance of physical appearance and talk about traits like intelligence, values and personality, but psychological research consistently shows a strong positive correlation between a person’s attractiveness and their ability to sell to us.”
One social media influencer by the name of Brandon B has 5.6 million subscribers on YouTube. It takes the view that photo and video manipulation apps should be viewed positively.
“I’m glad these apps exist, because I think there are a lot of people who aren’t positive enough about their bodies on social media, so they can feel left out,” he said. “These tools help them get on social media.”
But Shira Brown, MD, an emergency medicine doctor at South Niagara Hospital in Ontario, Canada, says that “body image distortions” “seem to be exacerbated by common social media practices.”
“We see the immediate mental health consequences of social media, such as anxiety, suicidal thoughts and depression, in our everyday lives,” she added.