Instagram to blur self-harm images after Molly Russell's suicide

Have there been any studies into the effects of restricting access to pro-ana sites?


No, that’s what Facebook’s investors want. There’s no natural law or expression of consumer preference that demands content filtering be done algorithmically; it’s just that if it were done manually it would transform the business model of Instagram in ways their investors wouldn’t like. It might also affect the platform in ways we as consumers and citizen do or don’t like, but fundamentally there is no problem of content moderation that can’t be solved by throwing money at it.

Whose values? Whose morals? Mike Pence might well say the same thing, but have a slightly different agenda.

If Instagram (and Facebag, and Titter) hold themselves out as publishers, then they are legally liable for everything that appears on their platforms, including the two percent of “we love cutting, it’s fun” posts which make it through the filter. If your real goal is to litigate these companies out of existence and/or turn them into walled gardens, this is a good way to do it.

You are treading close to what some here would term victim blaming.

Parents, consumers … having responsibilities?? Pardon me, I must go clutch my pearls. :wink:

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I don’t think that is accurate.

What you describe is what Facebook et al. want. They also spend a lot of time and effort to get us to want it too.

They do not want to have to hire actual humans to moderate. They do not want parents to actually control/limit their offspring’s social media use.


Content moderation works pretty well on the level of boingboing, with a few hundred regular posters who pretty much agree on most hot button issues. Can you point to an example of a content moderation system that has worked on the hundred-million-member scale?

Excellent. It needs to happen. They are voracious data gatherers making millions of dollars out of aggregating data about human behaviour, care only that their ‘users’ use the service and care not one whit about the health or welfare of those ‘users’, other than to the extent it may result in bad PR.

Until they adapt their business models to be more user/human-friendly, rather than customer/corporate-friendly, and until they acknowledge that the value users receive from their services is vastly less than the value they themselves receive from all that data, they deserve to be litigated out of existence. If only that were possible…

Cue bleating about how people find them so useful and valuable and couldn’t do without them and how that would be so unfair… Frankly, I don’t give a damn. We did well enough without them and much of the persuasion that we need to use these services is propaganda from the services themselves about how they serve a useful social function, while conveniently ignoring the huge social damage they do that far outweighs any value, and blaming that damage entirely on the users. Until the balance is reset, they can go to hell AFAIAC



One 2017 survey of British schoolchildren found that 63% would be happy if social media had never been invented.

Full story:

(Please will nobody bother replying to me to say how useful you personally find these services and that they do have social value. I am no longer interested in debating that issue. Other non-toxic methods of communication are available.)


I was going to mention those sites. Pro-Ana (anorexia) sites are where anorexics group to support each other in their anorexia. Specifically, encouraging the body dysmorphia, sharing ways to lie to people around them about their eating (put some oregano on your tongue and tell people you ate a slice of pizza), sharing their pictures of emaciation as a goal…
You could compare them to MRA sites, or white supremacist sites, in that highly dysfunctional behavior is normalized and encouraged.
I’d be happy to read a study, but I’m going to take the cognitive leap that restricting access to a site that glorifies and encourages self-destructive behavior, discourages seeking treatment, and disseminates methods of concealment to decrease the likelihood of intervention is a Good Thing.

This study is more about redirecting searches… which is analogous to what some of the other commenters here are suggesting.
I also noticed that pro-ana is still a Thing, and seems to be widely searchable and hash tagged
Seeing as there’s a well-documented 10% mortality rate of anorexia, you’d think that this shit would be shut down…


Sure, the Great Firewall of China. I’m actually being very serious. Of course Instagram wouldn’t work anything like it does now and Instagram’s investors would hate it. My point isn’t that it would be feasible just to staff up and solve the issue for a token sum, but rather to counter the notion that content moderation is simply impossible so we must accept x or y social harm. We may choose to accept it but it’s not a natural law.


They do not want to have to hire actual humans to moderate.

That’s exactly what I was just thinking. The flip-side is that when you hire people to do those jobs, it’s terrible, terrible work. I read a story about somebody in the Philippines that did that for Facebook and after seeing torture photos, videos of killings, all kinds of abuse - they end up with PTSD.


That’s probably the reality of an automated filter.

Online communities that promote self-harm are out there and they are making things worse. I’m less than convinced that blurring a few instagram images will do anything to make things better.

My point was that recognizing the effect of communities that promote a behaviour is not at all like blaming video games or rock music.

Promoting deadly self-destructive behaviour seems like it ought to be stopped. I just tried googling to find information about how to conceal anorexia but no matter what words I typed it in just kept giving me sites on symptoms, signs, and support. I type in instead “how to get away with starving yourself” and I get tips in the first page of search results (including one where “starve” is used as a colloquial substitute for “diet” as a seemingly mainstream message about weight loss, so there’s that to contend with). Obviously someone at google modified the algorithm to zone in on the word “anorexia” but I just have to use different words. This is difficult stuff to combat and I don’t know if we know how.

I think suicide and self-harm like cutting are very different categories of behaviour. In suicide if you can put someone off of it for an hour you’ll very often put them off of it for months or more. Most people who survive suicide attempts are glad they lived. I’m sure this sounds absurd to people who have never been suicidal or who have never worked with suicidal people, but I have no doubt at all that there are people who are alive decades later because the day they were going to jump off a bridge the weather was just too awful so they stayed home.

Cutting isn’t a one-time desperate act in the same way. For a person who already does it, a little inconvenience isn’t going to stop them.


Sounds fine to me. One of the few issues that would get support across the left-right spectrum.

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google Pro-ana
google thinspo

fortunately (i guess) its a mix of actual sites/ blogs and articles about pro-anorexia being a thing-- didn’t see any resource sites, just click-bait articles

I don’t have twitter or instagram so I can’t tell you what those hashtags lead to

there is a link to a tumblr site (which I am not including because I don’t know the age of the blogger) that at first glance looks like it’s support for anorexia/ bulimia (like, eating disorders being a Bad Thing and here are coping mechanisms, body positivity etc)-- but all the pictures are scary underweight, the blogger’s own goal and the reblogged goals of others are scary thin (5’7" and 115lbs is concerning, 5’2" and 95 lbs, 4’ 10" and 86 lbs— ) And of course that tumblr site links to many others.

“35 reasons to be skinny”

  1. looking tiny in a medium sweater
  2. wearing messy buns and actually looking GOOD
  3. dainty arms
  4. wearing bikinis with no shame
  5. crop topssss
  6. thin wired glasses
  7. being able to sit on someone’s lap
  8. being someone’s thinspo
  9. “have you lost weight?”
  10. bralettes
  11. thigh gaps
  12. defined cheek bones
  14. visible collarbones
  15. getting hugged and being told that your bones are poking them
  16. being proud of yourself
  17. actually looking good in a mirror
  18. never being told to shop in plus sizes
  19. “that might be a little big on you… maybe try a smaller size?”
  20. looking good in all the makeup
  21. cute boys/girls will take an interest in you
  22. you are the most amazing thing in every room
  23. being able to put your hand around your arm
  24. fitting both hands around your thighs
  25. size 0
  26. always being a success story
  27. getting rid of your before pictures
  28. people actually wanting to kiss you
  29. never having low self-esteem because you are the env of everyone
  30. never having chafing thighs
  31. no gross sweating all the time
  32. dainty thin fingers
  33. looking good in sweatpants
  34. taking cute pictures of your legs in the bath
  35. “oh you’ve gotten so skinny! how did you do it? you look amazing!

That’s not a matter of “throwing more money at the problem” it’s a matter of “putting the problem under the control of an authoritarian corporate state”. Think about who Trump might appoint to run a “Great Firewall of the USA”.


I’d never heard of “thinspo” before. That one very neatly connects the dots between mainstream worship of thinness and eating disorders. (To save others thinspo is short for “thinspiration” a person who inspires you to be thinner by looking good being thin)

I’d love it if pinterest boards of this stuff didn’t exist. While I have experience with suicide and self-harm generally, I don’t know much about eating disorders and I wouldn’t guess how to tackle the problem. (Aside from generally promoting body positivity.)

You’re moving the goalposts and not understanding me. All I’m saying is - the narrative that content moderation is “impossible” is highly convenient to people who benefit financially from these business models. It would be possible to fully moderate Instagram, but doing so would probably require Instagram to charge subscriptions instead of being ad-powered and would mean its reach was substantially limited. Even if you think that would be bad and the status quo is great, the point is merely that the status quo is a choice.


My sister struggled with anorexia before tumblr and Instragram. All of the same elements appear to present, with the exception of the amplifying quality of social media.

This is a standard model/actor weight- I have seen pages listing the heights and weights of lingere models (VS, et. al), and while they were slightly taller, they were in the same range- 5’9, 119 lbs, and so on.

As long this narrow ideal of sexy and desirable dominates the imagery produced by the fashion and film industry, these groups aren’t going anywhere.


Well if you had said something like

“Sure, the Great Firewall of China. I’m only somewhat kidding here”

I would not have replied as I did.

Your followup post makes perfect sense.

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No, it was merely an illustration that such moderation and interception of selected/prescribed material is entirely possible.
Nobody was suggesting it be state-run.
Perhaps “the great firewall of Facebook/Instagram/wherever” is a better description, especially as the rest of us could remain as happily outside it as we currently are, if we chose.

ETA Oops I composed this a while ago but had not hit ‘post’ until now (being distracted by some real-world nonsense needing my urgent attention) and now I see you’d already replied above. Apologies. Though this does amplify the point and I guess we are now all on the same page.

Uh… I mean, maybe I’m wrong here, but as someone who has been in some pretty dark places, and who has known and cared for people who have attempted suicide, or caused intentional physical self harm as some means of psychological release, this smells an awful lot like bullshit.

All I’m saying is, I know several people who aren’t alive anymore because of self-induced reasons, and there’s no way in hell that simply “making it hard for people to find images of self harm” would have helped any of them–if anything, it would made it worse. People who physically harm themselves often do it from a place of hurt that is fed at least in part by feelings of isolation.

To put it another way, when dealing with a suicidal person who feels isolated and misunderstood, the last thing you want to do is apparently confirm those feelings. This is not advocacy for the “well, everybody feels like that sometimes!” response that is very common among well-meaning people, that’s a reaction that people have to someone experiencing something they don’t themselves fully understand and doesn’t really help. What I mean is creating a situation that makes people who already feel isolated, misunderstood, and/or alone feel even worse, and makes it even easier for them to justify the notion that things neither can, nor will, get any better.

No, this sounds like is what a bunch of tech industry cowards would do in order to try to keep things that aren’t “fun and marketable” off of their platform. These motherfuckers don’t care that girl is dead, all they care about is being somehow implicated in that death. That’s all any of these motherfuckers care about from the tech industry to health secretary–their own visibility. The platform is worried about being associated with something shocking and scary, and the health secretary needs to be seen to be “protecting children.” Since it’s literally impossible to blanketly “protect children” from suicide or self-harm, they’re both using basically the same strategy to put as much distance between themselves and the parts of reality that just seem to refuse to conform to their desires or expectations. You can be sure that on some level the people behind these decisions know damned well that they aren’t going to change anything, and that this postured ineffectiveness is just a cynical way to push the blame to literally anywhere else.

The massive surge in <20 suicide couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that so many young people feel like they never even had a future to begin with on account of their parents and grandparents taking literally everything that isn’t nailed down! They obviously got the idea by seeing pictures of people doing it on the internet, just like every generation before them! :roll_eyes: