Instagram has a new policy restricting the sale and promotion of weight loss products and cosmetic procedures. The policy is in response to promotional posts from influencers and high-ranking celebrities such as the Kardashians and Cardi B who use their fame to sell "laxatives" to their audiences - usually young girls and women. They have come under attack for contributing to a rise in disordered eating and poor body image.
Instagram has one billion users across the world. The policy, which started rolling out from 18th September, will focus on detox teas, diet pills, 'appetite-suppressing' lollipops, diet shakes, and so on.
Weight loss products are not uncommon in Africa. In 2017, the Kenyan "socialite" and entrepreneur, Vera Sidika, controversially known for, amongst other things, bleaching her skin then blackening it for a music video, launched her own brand of laxative teas called Veetox with the motto: "Lose the Belly. Retain the hips."
Sidika regularly promotes her products on Instagram, like other celebrities and influencers. She also hired a bevy of up-and-coming influencers on her team of models to promote her product, including model and musician Tanasha Donna who is also musician Diamond Platinumz's fiancée.
Sidika's Veetox is made in the US and she reportedly receives orders from people all over the world. She is not the only African to tap into the dubious billion-dollar weight loss industry. A quick search on the Instagram pages of African celebrities and influencers shows them promoting and selling the unregulated products.
Instagram worked on the new policy with Jameela Jamil, a body positive activist who has been outspoken about the nefarious marketing tactics of the weight loss industry. She famously tweeted, "When will these women who are covered in plastic surgery stop telling their followers to drink a laxative to look like them?" she continued. "It’s so embarrassing and it’s so encouraging of eating disordered behavior. BE BETTER ALLIES!"
The new policy will restrict weight loss products and certain cosmetic procedures to users under 18 across Instagram and Facebook. Instagram will roll out an additional function to allow users to report a post within the app if they believe it violates the policy. The post will then be reviewed by their content reviewers.
If a post is found to promote the use of weight loss products or cosmetic procedures, and has the incentive to buy or includes a price, Instagram will restrict it. If the post makes a "miraculous claim" about a certain diet or weight loss product, and is "linked to a commercial offer" such as a discount code, it will no longer be allowed and will be removed from Instagram.
This new policy is a win, especially for Africa where statistics on body image and eating disorders are lacking.