France is cracking down on websites that encourage young women to starve themselves. An amendment to a health bill passed yesterday punishes operators of pro-anorexia websites with up to a year in jail and an $11,000 fine, the Telegraph reports. The amendment calls for penalties for those who provoke "people to excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged dietary restrictions that could expose them to a danger of death or directly impair their health." Lawmakers say 40,000 people in France, almost all of them women, suffer from the eating disorder and warn that so-called "thinspirational" websites "can push people into a vicious circle of anorexia and authorities cannot do anything about it."
Politicians say the new law, which follows a failed attempt to crack down on the hiring of excessively thin fashion models, "will not call into question the idea of freedom of expression on the Internet," the New York Daily News reports, and will not apply to websites set up to help anorexia sufferers. Lizzie Crocker at the Daily Beast, however, notes that most people who visit "pro-ana" websites are already anorexic, and "even those who seek out these social networks with a self-destructive agenda often come away with support." The law, she writes, "may end up hurting the very people it's trying to protect" and "at the very least, it perpetuates panic about the dire straits of female body image." (Tumblr has banned blogs that glorify anorexia and other forms of self-harm.)