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Harmful eating disorder content should be removed from social media

Following Instagram’s promise that it would remove all content related to self-harm from its platform, the UK’s eating disorder charity Beat has called for similar action on content causing harm to people with eating disorders.

Beat’s Director of External Affairs Tom Quinn said:

“So-called pro-ana and pro-mia content is widespread on social media and can be very harmful for people suffering from an eating disorder. People will not develop an eating disorder by being exposed to images that glamorise eating disorders, but research shows that such content helps perpetuate the illnesses for people who are already suffering. 

“We welcome Instagram’s recent increases in its security measures to protect users from content that promotes eating disorders. However, social media platforms should do more to ensure such content cannot be posted in the same way as Instagram is now cracking down on images of self-harm.

“It is important to note that most pro-ana and pro-mia content is posted by people who are themselves suffering from an eating disorder and is not deliberately malicious. Social media platforms should do more to direct affected users to sources of support.

“While people can develop an eating disorder at any point in life, we know that teenagers are particularly affected by anorexia, and we urge companies and individuals who market to this age group to consider the implications of their marketing for vulnerable people.”