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Eating disorders and social media are hard to disentangle

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On Twitter, the creators regularly share advice on emergency diets and encourage eating disorders, with some amassing tens of thousands of followers in the process. Twitter’s algorithms automatically suggest accounts and related topics for users to follow, based on the accounts they visit. When a Twitter user views accounts that promote eating disorders, Twitter recommends topics like “models,” “fitness apps and trackers,” “mindful eating” and “workout videos.”

Twitter said its policies ban content that promotes eating disorders or provides instructions or strategies to maintain them, and that the company primarily relies on users to report non-compliant content. A spokesperson for the company said her topic recommendations differed between accounts.

“While we remove content that violates our policies on suicide and self-harm, we also allow people to share their struggles or ask for help,” the spokesperson said.

On Snapchat, users often form dedicated group chats to encourage each other to pursue eating disorders. Some discussions focus on providing negative feedback, essentially intimidating participants into not meeting their dietary goals. Others provide positive feedback.

After a New York Times investigation, Snapchat said it would ban the use of terms related to group chats in user display names, group chat names and search. The company has previously blocked a number of common terms associated with eating disorders and is providing resource suggestions, a spokesperson said.

Ms Levina, the creator of TikTok, said she didn’t think she needed to moderate her content to avoid influencing young people to adopt unhealthy behaviors. Instead, suggested Ms. Levina, the teens were old enough “to understand the information given and decide what to do”.

But Dr Khadijah Booth Watkins, associate director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, said young people are particularly impressionable, so content creators should consider that they could inspire teens to make healthy choices. dangerous.


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