New legislation would regulate retouched photos

Taylor Moore
Staff Writer

California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, D-Downey, has proposed legislation that requires social media platforms to post a disclaimer on photos that have been retouched for promotional purposes. 

The bill introduced last month would define “retouched” as a person having altered their bodily appearance to narrow or thicken their figure, or to remove blemishes on their skin, for example.

The tag on the retouched photo would be in a contrasting type, font, or color to the surrounding background, which would clearly set it apart. The tag would also specify what specifically was retouched on that person. 

According to a statement by the legislator, the bill was motivated by behavioral research pointing to the mental health dangers to the youth that modified body images pose. 

The research by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine demonstrated that suicide rates among ninth to 12th-grade students are influenced by body perceptions, according to the February statement.

Garcia said in the statement that millions of users ranging from children to adults consume these retouched photos, which set unrealistic beauty standards, and everyone has a moral responsibility to protect the safety and wellness of young people.

“Being raised in a society that teaches girls and women that their worth comes from their bodies and appearances comes at a high personal toll,” said Caroline Heldman, critical theory and social justice professor at Occidental College. “The more we believe our body is worth, the higher our rates of depression and eating disorders, both of which put girls and women at risk of death by suicide.” 

Heldman said that Photoshopped images project an impossible beauty standard in a culture where women are pressured to be beautiful. She said that capitalism was at the heart of this. The larger the gap between where women think they are and where they think they should be in terms of their bodies, the more beauty products and services are purchased. 

“This money-making scheme robs us of our energy and happiness,” Heldman said. 

Samantha Leyland, a freshman radiology major at Mt. San Antonio College, said there has always been a beauty standard for girls. She called it a trend, but it’s a trend that keeps changing. Lately, the trends have been varying from being skinny and petite to being curvaceous. She said that these beauty trends feel impossible to keep up with. Photoshopped images don’t help because they’re setting a false standard, Leyland said.

“You grow up looking at pictures of skinny and beautiful girls, then you get sad because you don’t look like that,” Leyland said. 

Heldman said that social media in Israel and France are already regulating Photoshopped images. Airbrushed images have a label to let people know that the images they are seeing are not reality. 

“This is an important step to recognize that the images that surround us in order to fight against the pressure we feel to engage in self-injurious behaviors, such as disordered eating,” Heldman said. 

There are those who feel that making this bill law would have some negative effects. 

Brian Zaw, a freshman fashion design major at Mt. San Antonio College, said that a label on Photoshopped images could pose more issues than benefits. 

“Tweaking your photos is a personal choice,” Zaw said. “This bill will leave room for people to call out people who Photoshop images.”

Heldman said that the bill is a fine first step in terms of protecting the youth against images that may harm their personal health. 

“We regulate toxic air in the United States because it is profoundly harmful to children,” Heldman said. “Why don’t we regulate toxic images that have harmful effects that two decades of research have confirmed?” 

The bill will be referred to the policy committee this month where the legislative process will begin. 

Taylor Moore can be reached at

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Taylor Moore is a junior broadcast journalism major and LV Life editor for Spring 2023. In her fourth semester on Campus Times, this is her second time serving as LV Life editor. She has also served as social media editor and staff writer.

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