Activists Lobbying for Federal Department of Photoshop Fails

Today on Capitol Hill, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) met with advocates calling for greater federal oversight of Photoshop use. Led by ad-man turned advocate Seth Matlins, the group presented the Congresswomen with a 25,000-signature Change.org petition to pass an act regulating digitally altered images in advertising. 

The "Truth in Advertising Act"—crafted by Matlins, the Eating Disorders Coalition, and Brave Girls Alliance—was introduced by Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Capps in March. The legislation directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to "develop a regulatory framework for ads that materially change the faces and bodies of the people in them, in order to reduce the damage this type of advertising does to our children."

According to a Change.org press release (emphasis mine), "excessive Photoshop use...contributes to one of the most significant public health crisis (sic) in the US, adding to emotional, mental and physical health consequences including eating disorders, which affects children and teen girls disproportionately." (For the record, "Photoshop," like Kleenex or Xerox before it, has become something of a catch-all term for any digital image alteration.) Matlins called Photoshopped ads "weapons of mass perfection." He insists that "we're not talking about regulating that (sic) making a blue sky bluer, or photoshopping away a fly-away hair. We're talking about ads that change the shape, size, proportion, color, and enhance or remove the features of the people in them."

That is the kind of thing people actually want our federal government determining. How many fly-away hairs can be disappeared before it's "seriously changing" an image? How many pixels can Miranda Kerr's waist be taken in by? How many pores can be smoothed off of Emma Stone's face without breaking the law?

It's ludicrous. And possibly unconstitutional. Advertising is, after all, protected First Amendment speech. Under a landmark Supreme Court case on advertising—Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of New York—the government can only restrict non-deceptive commercial speech when doing so "directly advances" a substantial state interest. I don't think the FTC has a substantial interest in becoming self-esteem-booster-in-chief. 

Of course, the FTC can step in when advertising is deceptive or misleading. Matlin and his ilk are argue that Photoshopping does count as deception. It's a stretch. And let's not forget that advertising—especially the kind of high-fashion advertising frequently reliant on Photoshp—can also be considered artistic expression. A form of artistic expression, in fact, to which "seriously changing" images is central.

As an alum of women's blogs, I've witnessed and covered my fair share of "Photoshop fails"—waists smaller than a model's neck, crotches cropped to create extra thigh gap. But here's the thing: The blogosphere does a pretty good job of policing this on its own. After a few years of a familiar cycle—extreme digital hack job, blogger complaints, segment on Good Morning America, action from admaker, repeat—more and more companies have been backing off extreme Photoshopping. In other words: The media and the market have got this one, thanks. 

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Really. This country has no other, more pressing issues?

  • Jordan||

    Stomping out every last vestige of liberty is a very pressing issue for progderps.

  • Paul.||

    I'm with Jordan on this one.

    Lack of control anywhere is lack of control everywhere.

    Bumper... sticker, motherfuckers.

  • ||

    in order to reduce the damage this type of advertising does to our children

    Ok, the instant the Invocation of the Children (TM) is used, I immediately suspect cronyism. But who is benefiting from this? It's too stupid to be anything else.

  • LynchPin1477||

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I think this is one of those rare cases of "democracy in action", where there is no actual benefit to anyone but enough of a concentrated (if small) group of voters to make it worth it for the politicians who need re-electing.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Big Makeup

  • Anomalous||

    Why no alt-text?

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    I pretended the hand pointer of my cursor was the alt-text, since it's a critique of Photoshop. When the mind is deprived of alt-text, the mind is wont to rationalize its own.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    The alt-text is always the first thing to slip when I'm in a hurry. Apologies. =)

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Never apologize. I'm sorry, I don't make the rules.

  • Agammamon||

    Yeah, ENB - dealing with the Reason commenters is like dealing with an aggressive dog. Never show fear or weakness here.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    It's not fear or weakness! Just being playful! You guys don't scare me.... ;)

  • flye||

    Talk about burying the lede -- if this is one of the most significant public health crises in the US, then we should be patting ourselves on the back for eliminating all major diseases.

    Great job everyone! Drinks are on the house! USA! USA!

  • silent v||

    like Kleenex or Zerox before it

    As google would say--Did you mean: Xerox?

  • Libertarian||

    They misspelled "crises" as well. Some ad genius that guy was.

  • cw||

    Public health and the chilenz. No thinking required.

  • LynchPin1477||

    It is only deceptive or misleading advertising if the alterations mislead people about the product being sold. So maybe photoshopping an ad for Spanx to make the product look better than it is would qualify. Making that model on the cover of Cosmo look skinnier? Not unless you're selling the model.

  • Horatio||

    In which case a free market would dictate a test ride before purchase.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Didn't South Park already cover this?

  • BoscoH||

    Suggested alt text: "Beer gogging or Photoshop?"

  • Monkey's Uncle||

    "It's ludicrous. And possibly unconstitutional. Advertising is, after all, protected First Amendment speech."

    Oh, you silly libertarians! What difference at this point does the Constitution make?

  • ||

    Tobacco and booze companies may have a different understanding

  • LynchPin1477||

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Why stop there? I think they should also have to report any cosmetic surgery that their models have undergone. That is just as bad as photo shopping, isn't it?

  • Rich||

    "we're not talking about regulating that (sic) making a blue sky bluer, or photoshopping away a fly-away hair. We're talking about ads that change the shape, size, proportion, color, and enhance or remove the features of the people in them."

    Oh. Well, in that case -- fuck you!

    If we *must* "regulate" this shit, why don't you just do what those impossible-stunt car ads do and slap on a disclaimer?

  • LynchPin1477||

    NEEDZ MOAR IMPOSITION

  • Rich||

    Very well. Mandate and tax those disclaimers!

  • ||

    We also need to outlaw images of naked people that are completely computer generated!

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    The blogosphere does a pretty good job of policing this on its own.


    Is this something that needs to be 'policed'? Entertainment sources produce an idealized image appealing to consumers -- clearly something that needs strict scrutiny. /sarc

    Exactly why do the "media and the market" have to "get this one"? There's precisely as much evidence for this "harm" as there is for the "truth" of Satanic backmasking.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    They don't have to "get this one," but they are. It doesn't have to be policed, but people want to. And if people want to voluntarily do that, that's fine with me.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Some people also wanted to "get" Satanic backmasking and the Beatles; I don't see why these idiots should be presented in any more flattering a light than those morons or why they should be written about as representatives of the market when they are nothing of the kind. In both cases it's a small cross-section of society (wrongly) obsessed about something that the rest of the population is at best blase about, and where these groups would like nothing better than to enforce their views using government. There's no reason to suggest that this is anything other than stupid, or that it is more popular/influential than it really is.

  • Winston||

    Also wasn't there plenty of photo manipulation before photoshopping?

  • Rich||

    And just look at how we've turned out!

    *** rests case ***

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Stalin's photo album says yes.

    Damn those Communist fat-shamers.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I don't know what you're talking about. This is totally realistic.

  • WDATPDIM?!||

    Also wasn't there plenty of photo manipulation before photoshopping?

    My thoughts exactly. Back when I was sneaking a peek at the old man's Playboy stash, people were wringing their hands about how "those women aren't real" and "it will warp boys' expectations" and "you'll end up like Ted Bundy!" Bullcrap.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Damage? Isn't the big goal was to make our kids thinner?

  • Libertarian||

    By the time they get this law passed, all ad illustrations will be computer generated anyway. Problem solved. (of course, that will necessitate a new law, one against "unrealistic representations." I tell you, if these guys were in charge when I was a kid, I would have never ordered those x-ray glasses. Or sea monkeys.

  • WDATPDIM?!||

    By the time they get this law passed, all ad illustrations will be computer generated anyway. Problem solved.

    Ah hah! So it's the CGI geeks who are behind this!

  • Paul.||

    this type of advertising does to our children."

    You know what, I just figured something out. When politicians say 'our children' they're not talking about their children, they're talking about my children.

    Now it all makes sense.

    *continues crushing beetles*

  • Invisible Finger||

    wrong. Then they say OUR children, they mean everyone. Because infantilizing is all they know.

  • Fluffy||

    Since no girl actually looks like Elsa from Frozen, I demand that Disney pull the movie from circulation.

  • LynchPin1477||

  • Fluffy||

    OK, now I have a new purpose in life.

    Thank you for linking to that. Really, thank you.

  • LynchPin1477||

    thechive.com is part of my daily routine.

  • ||

    God. Damn.

  • paranoid android||

    I used to be pretty sure that there is no God, but in light of new evidence I'm gonna have to reconsider that.

  • Invisible Finger||

    She looks better the less makeup she's got.

  • LynchPin1477||

    That can often be the case.

  • Libertarian||

    And we know that those pictures haven't been photoshopped because.................why?

  • ||

    The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits.

  • Paul.||

  • Libertarian||

    Shouldn't that be the Dunning-KRUGMAN effect?

  • ||

    Maybe they could form a club with a website that points out all the egregious photoshopping they find and publicly shame... or yeah, that's done a lot by a lot of people.

    But they want the government to do it for all of us.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    they could form a club with a website that points out all the egregious photoshopping they find and publicly shame... or yeah, that's done a lot by a lot of people


    Right, and a lot more people point and laugh at these websites (*cough*Jezebel*cough*) -- which is why they want government to mandate it as well as related efforts in education to change views. SJWs constitute a very small (and mostly loathed) cross-section of society and deep down they know it; of course they want the Good King to force those heathens to pay their tithe and learn the proggie catechism.

  • Christophe||

    If they want this law to have any effect, they better get it passed within the decade.

    Once human genetic engineering is widespread, Photoshop won't be needed.

  • Christophe||

  • Sevo||

    ..."excessive Photoshop use...contributes to one of the most significant public health crisis in the US,"...

    Onion can't keep ahead of this stuff.

  • AlmightyJB||

    What do they do about how hot her before picture is though?

  • ||

    So it is not just me. The one on the right looks kinda weird and freaky. Unnatural.
    Girl on the left: hot hot hot.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Nope. Not just you.

  • AlmightyJB||

    So since not every kid can dunk a basketball, throw a long spiral, or hit one out of the ballpark, then all processional sports should be bad so no one feels inadequate. Also, since we can't all be talented musicians, all music should be banned. All movies, television, and books should be banned lest will feel jealous of the characters or celebrates lives or romantic relationships. Any activity that can't be performed by a deaf, mute paraplegic must be banned less we give them the sad. Any usage of ones brain must be banned so since Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) have never experianced brain activity and may feel inadequate. All human feeling should be banned to protect sociopaths even though they don't experience feelings to feel bad with. Why don't we just go ahead and nuke the planet already.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Also, why aren't they banning makeup as well?

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