Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Anorexia Promotion on YouTube

You may already be aware that there are "Pro-Ana" and "Pro-Mia" websites on the internet that promote anorexia, bulimia, and associated behaviors. Internet service providers frequently shut down the pro-eating disorder websites, which often provide tips on how to effectively starve oneself. Many pro-ana sites listed on other webpages had been closed when I followed the links. One site I found offered unhealthy "tips" such as "You can train yourself to forget hunger by gently punching your stomach every time you get hungry because you'll hurt too bad to eat" and "Don't swallow - chew and spit." Another site offered the motto, "What nourishes me destroys me."

Now, pro-ana videos are popping up on YouTube. I'd prefer not to link to these videos, but a few that I have viewed feature montages of startling thin women (sometimes models) with pronounced ribs, pelvic, and collar bones. Some of the images could easily be inserted into a set of photos on Holocaust victims, given the obvious starvation. One video is described as a "Supportive message to Pro Ana Nation," while another boasts that it is a "very beautiful pro ana presentation." YouTube does not block these videos, but they are often flagged as inappropriate. Once you agree to view flagged content once, there is no additional reminder when viewing new videos (at least if you're signed into your account). YouTube reviews the flagged videos to make a determination about whether the video/user can stay. YouTube's community guidelines state that users should not "post videos showing dangerous or illegal acts, like animal abuse or bomb making." Would videos encouraging anorexia (which is certainly dangerous, and arguably a form of self-abuse of the human animal) fall under this guideline? I have an email in to the site to find out what their specific take on these videos is, and how they respond to this type of video once flagged.

I'm not convinced these sites should be censored, but eating disorders are serious business. See links below for resources.

Relevant Links:
  • 'Pro-Ana' Web Sites Glorify Eating Disorders - ABC News
  • Warning over pro-anorexia sites - BBC News
  • Weborexics: The Ethical Issues Surrounding Pro-Ana Websites - ACM Portal
  • How macabre world of the web offers fresh insight on anorexics - Guardian Unlimited
  • Eating disorders FAQ - National Mental Health Information Center
  • Eating Disorders - KidsHealth
  • Kids and Eating Disorders - KidsHealth
  • National Eating Disorders Association
  • Anorexia Nervosa -
  • Anorexia Nervosa -

    (hat tip to Kevin, MD)

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