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Leading Psychiatrist Shares Concerns About The Effectiveness of New YouTube Eating Disorder Regulations

Updated: Apr 2

photo of a smartphone with the YouTube logo on the screen

Press Release

Date: 10.07.23

YouTube's recent announcement regarding its new regulations to crack down on content related to eating disorders has raised concerns from a leading eating disorder specialist.

Dr Tony Winston, Medical Director at Schoen Clinic UK Group, has welcomed the platform's efforts to adopt a more responsible attitude towards harmful content but has questioned the effectiveness of these measures and their impact.

YouTube’s latest policy update around content related to eating disorders outlines plans to provide more guidance for at-risk users, while also restricting access to some eating disorder content for younger audiences. Videos promoting or glorifying eating disorders are already banned on the platform, but the new rules will see a clamp down on content which demonstrates eating disorder behaviours viewers could imitate.

Speaking following the announcement, Dr Winston said: “It is welcome that YouTube is starting to take a more responsible attitude towards material which might encourage eating disorders. However, I am not sure how effective this will be.”

Moreover, Dr Winston highlighted the vast array of informative videos available on YouTube focussing on recognising the signs, symptoms, treatment options and recovery from eating disorders. Created by qualified health experts, these videos play a vital role in raising awareness and encouraging individuals to seek professional help.

“It would be illiberal and impractical to ban any videos which make reference to eating disorder behaviours and this would include important educational materials. However, deciding whether videos which refer to ‘imitable behaviours’ are glorifying or promoting these behaviours will not be easy.”

One of the proposed measures is to restrict access to these videos to individuals over the age of 18, with users required to sign in to a verified account to watch. Dr Winston acknowledged this is a step in the right direction, but noted that individuals aged 18+ are not immune to their potential impact.

Dr Winston's comments and YouTube’s new policy come in the wake of TikTok's ban last year on content promoting disordered eating symptoms, such as overexercising and short-term fasting, which the platform said are ‘under-recognized signs of a potential problem.’

About Dr Tony Winston

Dr Winston is Medical Director at Schoen Clinic UK Group and a Consultant in Eating Disorders at Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust. He has more than 20 years’ experience treating young people with eating disorders.

He qualified in medicine in 1987 and undertook postgraduate training in general medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy. Dr Winston is an Honorary Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Warwick and has published extensively on various aspects of eating disorders.

He currently leads a national working group on complex eating disorders at NHS England.

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