Social Media Apps Provide a ‘Petri Dish’ for Eating Disorders

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Social media has been labeled “the perfect Petri dish” for eating disorders, with support groups demanding companies clean up their platforms.

A federal parliamentary inquiry into social media and online safety heard from the Butterfly Foundation and Eating Disorders Families Australia about the dangers posed by popular apps.

Social media is the perfect Petri dish for the proliferation of eating disorders,” Eating Disorders Families Australia director David Quilty told MPs on Thursday.

“Social media and search engine providers must be required to clean up this harmful content and stop using their algorithms to deliver it to users.”

Mr Quilty wanted the Online Safety Act to require platforms to remove harmful and pro-eating disorder content.

“I’m not saying they should completely remove any content that may be related to body image or food-related issues, but it’s not hard to see what the most harmful content is,” a- he declared.

“Let me assure you, from a personal perspective, when you have a loved one who is hospitalized, who has seriously self-harmed, and then they tell you that Instagram has triggered, you realize how potentially dangerous these sites are.”

TikTok “behind the game”

Mr Quilty also named TikTok as being “behind the game”.

“That’s where with photoshop and the use of other applications, you can portray totally unrealistic images of young prepubescent and postpubescent girls in particular,” Quilty said.

The Butterfly Foundation wanted to set up a national survey on body image.

He noted that things have changed significantly since the 2009 development of a voluntary industry code of conduct on body image.

Parliament’s inquiry into social media and online safety is due to deliver its report by February 15.

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