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Instagram’s new tool allows users to block weight loss ads

The option for Instagram users to customise their targeted ads was introduced in early June, with a ‘body weight control’ category only added this week. Is this enough to stifle the toxic culture that festers within the appearance-obsessed platform?

Amidst the rise of body positive values in marketing tactics and amongst the general public, you’d think we’d no longer have to deal with inadvertently being shown weight loss adverts on our social media news feeds.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Companies dishing out weight loss supplements want to make their p’s, and a small selection of influencers are still more concerned with the easy commission they earn when you ‘ENTER MY CODE TO GET 10 PERCENT OFF! <3’ over trying to promote healthy lifestyles to their audiences.

It wasn’t long ago, for instance, that Kim K came under fire for promoting appetite supressing lollipops or when virtually every influencer you’ve heard of had posed with pouches of Flat Tummy Tea or laxative-infused gummy bears.

But it looks like we’ll be able to block it out (at least for the most part) now that Instagram has enabled us to choose what kinds of ads we see on our timelines.

The new ad customisation tool can be found in Settings > Ads > Ad topics. By tapping the search bar on this page, users can choose to ‘see less’ of several categories such as: alcohol, parenting, pets, social issues/politics, gambling, and now, body weight control.

Perhaps it was the leaked research from Meta’s headquarters that outlined revealing data on how Instagram has become a digital centrefold for unrealistic beauty standards, hindering the mental health and body image of its users – in particular, teenage girls.

Or maybe people are just getting sick of being told how their bodies should look on a platform already saturated by photos of poreless skin, digitally cinched waistlines, and so-white-they’re-almost-blue grins.

Throw in a campaign to remove potentially harmful ads by actress and activist Jameela Jamil on top of a petition created by body positivity campaigner Katie Budenberg, and Instagram finally caved.

It’s worth noting that the platform has announced that selecting the option to ‘see less’ of certain categories won’t guarantee all content related to the subject will be blocked from your timeline.

If an ad of this nature does happens to slip through, Instagram suggests hiding the ad manually, so that the algorithm can learn you aren’t interested.

Though comparing the tool to Pintrest’s total ban on weight loss advertisements makes Instagram’s move feel somewhat half-hearted, at least it’s a start.

And considering the platform has transformed into a virtual shopping mall – a far cry from the basic image sharing network it started as – it’s shouldn’t be too unsurprising that the company is unwilling to slash an entire category from its arsenal of revenue scoring methods.

Instagram has been making a lot of changes to its platform in recent months, most to the dismay of its userbase. At least we can commend this one as making a positive change, albeit somewhat small.