Today I wanted to take this space to let you know about an important campaign being led by the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED). AED (just in case you aren’t already aware) is a global organisation committed to leadership in Eating Disorders research, education, treatment, and prevention. I currently serve the organisation as Co-Chair for the Social Media Committee. One of our fellow committees recently wrote an open letter to all social media platforms calling for a number of actions to minimise harm to those at risk of, or living with Eating Disorder.
These 6 action requests are as follows:
- Increase transparency around the algorithms that guide users toward specific types of content, and more importantly, display community guidelines for appropriate content in plain language in an easily-accessed location within the platform. Public knowledge of how these algorithms can lead to problematic messaging is a good first step toward empowering community members to report disallowed content and reverse its effects.
- Build easy-access user paths into social media platforms, through which users may report content that is inconsistent with platform guidelines. Platform designers must be responsible for moderating content according to community guidelines. At the same time, users should also be empowered to assist with this process if and when desired. Further, they may identify content overlooked by existing algorithms.
- Direct more resources and funding toward AI-based identification and removal of malicious and eating disorder-promoting accounts and content, as well as those that stigmatize individuals living in larger bodies. Current profit margins should allow for ample room to bolster existing resources and/or build new infrastructure to tackle these problems in a more comprehensive way.
- Cease the development of an Instagram for users 13-years-old and younger. There is no demonstrated need for a social media platform for this age demographic. Further, given recommendations from authoritative bodies to minimize screen time and limit social media use particularly for younger children and preadolescents,15,16 the introduction of such a platform would be counterproductive for healthy childhood development.
- Solicit guidance from expert organizations like the AED to ensure these safeguards are well-suited to tackle the problem in a way that is well-aligned with the needs of the target at risk The goal of the AED is to provide global access to knowledge, research, and best treatment practice for eating disorders. Our worldwide network of experts can contribute unique insight into these challenges.
- Pre-register future studies on the impacts of social media usage on eating disorders, and disseminate the results to the public in a timely manner. The scientific field increasingly moves toward an open science framework, in which planned study methods are publicly specified in advance, and results are made easily accessible after study completion. To the extent that social media corporations’ user research involves conclusions about the effects of its platforms on user well-being, these results should be shared widely with current and potential users.
If this sounds like something you might be willing to support I’d ask that you CLICK HERE and go and read the full letter. If after reading the letter you feel you do want to support this call to action you can add your name to the list of supporters. Details on how to do this can be found BY CLICKING HERE.