Lawmakers in Italy proposed a bill this past June that could mean hefty fines and even jail time for creators of websites that promote anorexia and other eating disorders. So-called “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” websites are designed as an outlet where people suffering from an eating disorder can come to share “thinspiration” (thinspo) and dieting tips. However, many believe they pose a danger to young people who can be swayed into thinking anorexia or bulimia are a good way to lose weight.
If the bill is approved, pro-ana and pro-mia site creators would face a fine costing between $13,000 and $134,000 and/or up to a two year prison sentence. Fines would double if it was discovered the site had effected someone under the age of 14. People opposing the bill claim most of the people in charge of sites promoting anorexia and bulimia are often affected by an eating disorder.
“The world of pro-ana and thinspo is a dangerous place for those who have eating disorders or who are vulnerable to developing them,” Claire Mysko, teen outreach coordinator for the National Eating Disorders Association, told Yahoo Health. “People who create and consume this content are not villains; they are struggling, and sometimes they are very sick. That’s why we believe so strongly in providing a positive alternative.”
Controversy surrounding the Italian anti-anorexia bill comes in the wake of a 15-year-old girl in the U.K. who committed suicide after visiting pro-anorexia websites. Elle Holmes, a straight A student and captain of her school’s swimming team, was seemingly living a life most girl’s dream of, but Elle’s mother Leigh said that her daughter was dealing with “hidden demons” that she kept secret from even the people close to her.
"Everybody wants to know 'why'. To be honest, I still don't know," Leigh told The Telegraph. “I don't know why my loved, brilliant, popular, talented, funny baby made that decision. She left no note. She said nothing to the little brother she adored. No word to her boyfriend, or her close inner circle of friends. There was no long-suffering depression, or slow descent into despair. The spiral into darkness seemed to occur over just a few short hours as her mind became overwhelmed and she simply snapped.”
A look into Elle’s computer history revealed that she recently frequented pro-anorexia website in the days leading up to her untimely death. She had also wrote and performed a song titled “Mirror, Mirror” that seemed to highlight a girl’s attempt to cope with her looks. Leigh said her daughter showed no signs of depression and a video taken just before her death showed her laughing and fooling around with her younger brother.