Instagram issued an apology for promoting weight loss content to their impressionable user base especially the ones who are recovering from eating disorders. 

Instagram recently launched a new feature that suggests users topics that they might be interested in. The spokesperson for Facebook, who owns Instagram said in a statement, “To help people discover content they’re interested in, we recently rolled out a new way to search on Instagram beyond hashtags and usernames, where you tap on the search bar and we suggest topics you may want to search for”. 

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He further elucidates that the suggestions are limited to general interests. However, weight loss should not have been one of them. The social networking service will be taking steps to prevent these terms from appearing in future. 

According to their existing rules, Instagram does not allow content that encourages eating disorders and removes them as soon as the company is aware of them. 

However, Clinical Director at The London Centre for Eating Disorders and Body Image is of the opinion that the damages may have already been done. According to psychologists, unhelpful messages viewed on social media can act as triggers for people with eating disorders as well as those in recovery from an eating disorder. 

Victoria Spence, an influencer who has recorded her journey of overcoming an eating disorder also comments that suggestions like these would have been “so harmful” during her recovery. 

“It could honestly be the decider as to whether one continues with recovery or experiences a relapse” quotes Spence. 

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She also does not believe that Instagram promoting diet content could have been an algorithm mistake. “Instagram is a business at the end of the day and the diet industry is a multi-billion pound industry, so by Instagram adding it to the search engine, they knew that it would equate to a lot of sales,” she said.

“The problem with promoting content around ‘appetite suppressants’ and ‘weight loss plans’ on a platform with so many impressionable young people is that they are normalizing dieting and glorifying methods of weight loss that will inevitably trigger disordered eating or even worse, eating disorders.”

Spence concludes her statement by saying,” I guess the question is, do they genuinely care about the people using their platform or do they care more about themselves as a business?”