French Politician Proposes Warning Labels On Any Photoshopped Ad Or Marketing Label

from the no-digital-slimming-down dept

Mr. LemurBoy points out that some French politicians are pushing a law that would require a label on any marketing or advertising image that was photoshopped, airbrushed or edited in some manner. The idea, of course, is that they don’t want ad campaigns to portray things in a manner that is not quite truthful. But shouldn’t there just be a simpler rule against deceptive advertising (one I imagine must already exist)? If it’s just a little edit to make the photo more reasonable, why should it require some special disclosure?

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Comments on “French Politician Proposes Warning Labels On Any Photoshopped Ad Or Marketing Label”

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ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:

Molehill -> mountain

Quit exaggerating. This is not about colour correction, white balance, level adjustment and such. It’s about outright manipulation. It’s a fight against the impossible ideals being foisted on the public through the use of image manipulation. We’re not talking about clone-stamping out a pimple but massive changes, from slimming to impossible proportions to stretching legs 20% and more to removing every hint of a wrinkle. It’s about labeling outright lies like this.

Anonymous Coward says:


To restate, the law is not about deceptive advertisting because it’s not about the products being advertised. The law is meant to address the unreasonable ideals that advertisers have been pushing for years and years now, an ideal that has affected the way young people think about themselves and what they’re supposed to look like. The law is intended to protect 14 year old girls from getting it in their heads that air-brushed modles are what’s “normal.”

Paul says:

Your Answer

The answer to your question is in your post, Mr. Masnick. A “simple” rule against deceptive advertising would not be properly equipped to discern between “little edits” and deception. Virtually all marketing is very carefully controlled, retouched, edited, and remastered to keep the intended message.

Just a tiny edit/blur/filter/distortion to a product photo can make a fake product look legitimate–make pewter look like silver, make a a common wool sweater look like cashmere, turn a model’s lips that perfect shade of red…these (retouching methods) are all things intended to change the final appearance of the ad, which is supposed to be a reasonable representation of the product (assuming it is pictured…and it almost always is.)

I am very free-market, but I do not pretend that a law against deceptive advertising in our digital age would be easily enforced or self-explanatory. Advertising almost always ends up being fake, some way or another. There is no (and, fundamentally speaking, there can be no) clear line between “little edits” and deception.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Your Answer

“There is no (and, fundamentally speaking, there can be no) clear line between “little edits” and deception.”

So, then how does putting a warning on every single advertisement help things? I challenge you to find even one photo advertisement that is not edited in some way. Instead of putting these stupid warnings out, maybe we should expect people to have a little common sense and understand that advertisements are there to sell a product, no to educate them. Almost everyone understands this already, so what is the point of a warning label? And what possible meaning could it have when it would have to be plastered on nearly every advertisement?

Paul says:

Re: Re: Your Answer

I would hope a law like this is designed not to change what kind of warning is being put on each advertisement, but how the advertisements themselves are generated. If the problem is too much editing/retouching, the real solution is LESS EDITING–not more warning labels.

I do think that many retailers are not honest with depictions of their products. I think it is reasonable that a consumer, when shown an image of a product by that product’s seller, would believe that the picture is a good indication of the actual quality of the product. However, this is not the case in many fields, especially clothing and food. The shirts on mannequins are rather than worn normally; the clothing that a model wears will generally be tailored specifically for them despite the fact that no customer will have access to this service; color ranges are often edited into existing photographs, throwing off someone looking for a particular color…and of course the many exploits of the food industry as pertaining to depictions of food are well-known.

This is all becoming more important by the day because more and more of our shopping is likely to occur online, where we may never have the chance to encounter a product in person before purchase–and where returns are far more troublesome than they might be with traditional brick/mortar retailers. Overly edited photographs will inevitably lead to false sales in these situations. Remember the Wal-Mart kiddy pool that was photoshopped to appear roughly twice as large as it actually was?

The problem is the editing, not the lack of a warning or disclaimer.

Pitabred (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Your Answer

But you can’t legislate the editing. So you legislate the warning label, and when companies don’t have that label on their ad, you know they’re a responsible advertiser. Can you imagine if you’re the first company that doesn’t have to put the warnings on your ads? How much free publicity would they get from that?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: HA!

At this point in society, it’d be easier putting labels are images that have NOT been manipulated.

There are none – all digital cameras substantially process the image before you ever see it. The actual “original” images from the CCD are awful they have to be changed substantially by the camera before they are any use.

Of course you might try to distinguish between “automatic” modifications and “manual” ones – but if you investigate the subject properly (look up for example “image inpainting” on citeseer or web of science) you will find that that is practically impossible to do.

eg Model has skin blemish – do you:

a) cover it with make up;

b) adjust lighting/ camera angle so it doesn’t show;

c) postprocess colour balance so it doesn’t show;

d) remove it with photoshop ?

Which of these will your law catch/not catch?

Is there really a difference?

Pitabred (profile) says:

Re: Re: HA!

This isn’t about skin blemishes. This law is about body shape changing edits. Not just the flattering angle photography, but where they take a photo and actually alter the content. Just look at this ad:

It’s the same photo. One is just edited to make her look thinner, and the other to make her look fatter. See how the hair is EXACTLY the same? That is the problem people have with advertising. Not pimples.

EEJ (profile) says:

Re: HA!

I agree with Buzz Saw. Almost every image seen in the public view has been edited/manipulated in some way.

What problem will this law solve when EVERY picture is labelled as being edited/modified? As I understand it, there won’t be any detail listing what was modified (what a nightmare that would be!) which makes this a bit pointless…..

Mr. LemurBoy says:

The reason this made me sit up and take notice isn’t because I think it’s right to fool people, but because it seems so broad and so unreasonable to enforce. I do graphic design for a university, and some form of image manipulation is both very standard, and really rather mundane. I make up an ad for the school, and one of the students pictured has a pimple. I photoshop it out. Do I need to add a warning label? It’s such a small edit. I put together a poster for the latest soccer game the varsity team is playing. The picture is great except for a random player’s leg sticking in to the left side of the frame. I photoshop the leg away. I’ve just removed an entire element from the photo, but am I really trying to be deceitful?

That’s why I find this problematic. I’m all for truth in advertising. But a law like this would only cause us to see a “WARNING: IMAGE WAS DIGITALLY ENHANCED” label on so many pictures that it would lose all meaning. Maybe a simpler rule wouldn’t cover all the necessities in the digital age, but a law like this will catch too much in the crossfire.

hegemon13 says:

Is there a such thing as an advertisement that has not been altered in any way? Even adding text to an image is a modification.

Mike’s point makes much more sense. Photoshopped images only really matter if they materially alter the product or the results of the product, which should already be covered by deceptive advertising laws. For example, if you are advertising an acne cream and airbrush a model’s face for the “after” photo, it matters. However, if you are advertising a clothing line, airbrushing the model’s face is fine and does not affect the truth of the advertisement at all. What a silly, bureaucratic proposition this is.

scarr (profile) says:

It will become more noise

It’s a pointless law because everything is manipulated in one way or another these days. Everything will get tagged with an “image edited” label, and everyone will learn to ignore it like anything else that’s ubiquitous. It would only add visual clutter.

People strive for ideals because they’re ideals, not because that’s how they think everyone looks.

Sergio says:

Sooooo not needed

Is this really a concern? Hasn’t the market shown itself to effectively negate false advertising?

I remember being 7 years old and the board game “Crossfire” came out. The commercial for it was so bad ass everyone wanted it. Well, at least until that first kid got it. Word quickly spread that the game sucked. I believe he also returned the game and got battleship instead.

MichaelG says:

like Prop 65 warnings

California has Prop 65 which is supposed to warn you about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. But, it’s so broadly worded that nearly any business could qualify. So nearly every business displays the warning somewhere.

My apartment complex has a Prop 65 warning on each and every building and parking structure. Not exactly informative!

John Doe says:

What the world needs...

What the world needs is more warning labels because we all read and pay attention to them don’t we?

For example, I am a computer programmer and worked on a system where on one screen the user could do many things. We always prompted them if they were sure they wanted to do the action they just selected as a double check. Well guess what, when you are prompted every time you click, the prompts no longer stand out. You just accept them and go on. Sometimes completing an action you didn’t want to do because you ignored the warning.

So the point is, every ad would have to have the label for fear of being sued/prosecuted for being deceptive. If every ad is labeled, then they are all equal, no ad stands out and the label will be ignored as commonplace.

Sergio says:


That reminds me of when Pirate of the Carabian came out and all the promo posters in the US made Keira Knightley’s boobs bigger.

Personally, I don’t see a problem with enhancing physical features. We’re not that far from just computer generating the models we want for Ads, posing them exactly as wanted, lit perfectly, and getting the pefect angles. Will they need to put a warning on those shots?

If so, what if they made a wax figure exactly how they wanted it and then took a picture of that? Does that need a warning too?

If so, why aren’t they mandating that they put warnings on current ads that say “The model in this ad is bulimic”, or “The model in this ad has had breast implants that took her from a 34A to a 34C”?

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