NEW YORK (CBS2) — Critics of a controversial trend in advertising are proposing legislation that would force companies to inform customers when the models in their ads have been photoshopped in order to improve their appearance.

Seth Matlin is the founder of, the driving force behind the “Self Esteem Act,” which seeks to make consumers more aware of the digital enhancement that occurs in advertising.

Matlin believes that digitally enhanced advertising creates unrealistic expectations for young women and that advertisers are giving young girls the impression that they will never be good enough. He argues that by focusing on physical beauty, and by photoshopping already beautiful models, entire segments of the population are being excluded.

“Real women come in all shapes sizes and colors and we can’t leave them out of any conversation,” says Matlin.

Matlin’s proposed solution is the “Self Esteem Act”. He says that the act, if passed, would place “truth in advertising labels on ads or on editorials that have materially changed the human form by photoshopping or airbrushing.”

Studies confirm a crisis of self-esteem among teens. For example, nearly 50 percent of 11 to 17-year-old girls say they want to lose weight because of magazine pictures. And according to Jess Weiner, an author who writes about self-esteem issues for girls, “when teenage girls looks at beauty magazines…she knows it’s fantasy she knows it’s somewhat make-believe but developmentally she also feels a lot of pressure to live up to those images.”

However, the act is not without its detractors. Opponents claim that the “Self Esteem Act” would raise a serious freedom of speech issue. Nat Ives, an editor at Ad Age, says that,”nobody wants the government to tell them what to say and they will say that this is forced speech that they have the right to express their product accurately however they want.”

This would not be the first time that a government exerted control over the beautification of models in advertisements. In the past the British government has banned certain advertisements due to over the top digital enhancement.

Does the media create unrealistic expectations for young women? Would you like to see Truth In Advertising labels on print ads? Weigh in, in our comments section below.


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