France cracks down on anorexia

France is digging through the fat of the Internet to reach, and heal, its extremely thin. The National Assembly adopted a bill that could levy...

France is digging through the fat of the Internet to reach, and heal, its extremely thin. The National Assembly adopted a bill that could levy criminal charges against Web sites, magazines, and ads that incite anorexia or extreme thinness with pro-anorexia messages. If the Senate approves the bill in the upcoming weeks, authorities could punish offenders with a maximum of three years in jail if an “incitement” leads to death.

Valery Boyer, the author of the bill, told AFP she was confident that bloggers and Web site operators would decide voluntarily to shut down, and she expected quick action against those who resist.

The bill might be “groundbreaking,” but controversy surrounding the right and ability to censor public ads featuring anorexia is nothing new. Last year, Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani shot a series of ads featuring the 70-pound Frenchwoman Isabelle Caro for the Nolita fashion brand. The ads carried a "No to Anorexia” tagline. Although Toscani's ad would probably remain safe from prosecution under the incitement proposal, it was banned in France under a law that prohibits making commercial use of someone's illness.

The fashion industry applauded the effort, but some doubt its ability to truly change any behavior. AFP highlights a quote by Jean-Paul Gaultier, "This kind of problem cannot be resolved with laws, but through understanding."

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