26 March 2012

ThinsPo: The hunger pins

Thinspo photo of skeleton


Source: jezebel.com via Fashion on Pinterest

Thinspiration

Fashion blogs get a lot of media attention but as of late "thinspiration" or "thinspo" blogs have been gaining negative attention. These "pro-ana" blogs promote anorexia through pictures of extremely thin females and tips to help avoid eating.

Do you think ThinsPo sites should be shut down? Do you think operating these sites should be punishable by law as a public harm?

Here are notes listed as tips on thinspo blogs:

  • Someone told me that if you take a pure cold bath for 15-30 min and lower your body temp, your body burns around 200 cals for every degree it has to raise itself to reach a normal body temperature. This person tried it, a 30 min bath lowered their temp about 3-4 degrees
  • Instead of buying food, buy yourself flowers. Food is depressing, but flowers make you happy.
  • Be careful who you tell. It’s great to have online friends – in fact, I would encourage it – but unless you’re 100% positive that your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend will understand or help, DON’T TELL THEM. But, if you’re sure a friend or your boyfriend/girlfriend will be supportive, ask them to help you stick to your plan and meet your goals.
  • Drink one glass of water every hour. It will make you feel full.
  • Wear a rubber band around your wrist. Snap it when you want to eat.
  • Have 6 small meals a day. Take 2 apples, and split them so you can make 6 meals out of them. That way your body will be tricked into thinking it’s eating more.
  • Eating 100 cals 4 times a day is better than eating a 400 cal meal.
  • Thinspo is your best friend. You think you’ve lost weight? Check out some fashion models or skinny celebrities online and you’ll realize that you can probably do better.

Actions taken against thinspiration

Just as websites can get into trouble for contributory intellectual property infringement, tort claims can arise by someone alleging damages for a a harm. So, website owners are wise to disclaim responsibilities and also diminish the possibility of having a legal duty to the users. This is attained through terms of  use.

It is my understanding that AOL was the first to take action by prohibiting material that promotes physical harm to oneself or others. Yahoo followed by removing 115 pro-ana sites because the sites violated Yahoo's terms of service. You can learn more about thinspiration in the Huffington Post article here.

Pinterest's terms of service were recently changed to prohibit material that “creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal.” Previously, Pinterest only had the condition that they did not allow nudity or hateful content.

Tumblr responded to its large and ever-growing ThinsPro-related blogs by banning blogs it considered self-harming. You can read Tumblr's new policy on its website (here). This new policy includes showing a PSA to people who search for pro self-harm related blog terms.

What are Terms of Use/Terms of Service?

These are terms and conditions website users must abide by in order to use or retain the given website's services. Some websites may require you to specifically check off that you have read these terms but they are often found at a website's footer.

By use of websites such as different service providers, stores, large blogs, and forums. These terms usually shift liability to the user and ban activity that could get the website provider into legal trouble. Here is where the provider often reserves the right to limit a user's access or terminate the user's account due to violations.

If drafted correctly, terms of use will be upheld by U.S. Courts. To make this a stronger possibility your terms should include a severability clause. (e.g., If any provision of these terms of service is deemed invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the invalidity of such provision shall not affect the validity of the remaining provisions of these terms of service, which shall remain in full force and effect.)


What to include in your Terms of use/Terms of Service

These terms are quite straight forward to draft; I have drafted a few for different clients I had in a business law clinic. There are probably tons of templates online but the key is to make sure you are thinking of the services or discussion platforms you provide to users of your website. Amongst other things you want to explain 1. who owns your website, 2. description of your service, 3. who the terms apply to, e.g. everyone who accesses your site, registered users, or anonymous commenters, 4. age restrictions, 5. information on third-party sites, 6. account termination policies, 7. website modification policy, 8. limitation of liability, and 9. a warranty disclaimer.

Keep in mind that due to case law, your warranty and limitation of liability sections must be under different headings in order to be upheld. They must also be displayed in CAPS to be found to properly alert your reader.



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