The Eating Disorder Association of Ireland says Twitter accounts promoting anorexia and bulemia, can have a ‘trigger effect’ on sufferers.
As many of us turn to New Year diets to shift the excesses of Christmas, tens of thousands of eating disorder sufferers are vulnerable to the content hosted on so-called ‘Pro Ana’ Twitter accounts. Websites including Tumblr and Pinterest have already banned pro-anorexia topics, but Twitter has told 98FM News it doesn’t monitor content, and can’t comment on specific accounts.
Twitter accounts with profile names like, ’Skinnierplease’, and ‘Thinsperation’ regularly post pictures of underweight woman and men, along with dieting and purging tips. For Bodywhys – the National Eating Disorder Association, the content can be a trigger for sufferers. “An unwell person may see weight loss as an achievement, while in reality its a potentially deadly behavior”, explains CEO, Jacinta Hastings. “The concern we have is that detailing behaviours can encourage obsessiveness and minimisation of the seriousness of eating disorders.”
Bodywhys says ‘Pro Ana’ Twitter accounts establish communities where people are discouraged from seeking treatment. The association says its difficult to engage with the users, because they are not pro-recovery, adding that sites are often set up by those suffering from eating disorders, who may initially form a community to feel less isolated, but end up creating a very unhealthy environment.
Twitter’s terms and conditions don’t explicitly ban self-harm or eating disorder content. In a statement to 98FM News, the website explained, “We don’t monitor content on Twitter, with more than 400 million Tweets sent every day. However, if accounts are reported to us that may be in conflict with our rules or terms of service, we will investigate on a case by case basis and, if necessary, take the appropriate action.”
Asked whether it would ban the use of hashtags such as #ProAna and #ProMia, Twitter said it wouldn’t comment on specific terms or accounts.
Listen to Louise Byrne’s report here: