UK lawmakers warned memes may normalize trolling, body shaming

UK lawmakers warned memes may normalize trolling, body shaming
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Memes may be contributing to the U.K.’s teenage obesity crisis and normalizing online "trolling, body shaming and bullying" a group of British researchers told lawmakers in the U.K.

"A substantial number of individuals on Twitter share health-related internet memes, with both positive and negative messages," academics from Loughborough University wrote in evidence to Parliament. "There is evidence of uncritical consumption of on-line health-related information."

The researchers warned that memes shared to apparently make light of health-related topics could “normalize undesirable behaviors such as trolling, body shaming and bullying, and a lack of emotion may be indicative of a larger apathy with regards to such practice.”

They also warned that memes could help proliferate poor health and eating habits, which could create a higher financial burden for the country’s nationalized health care system, the National Health Service (NHS).

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"Internet memes are generally viewed as entertaining but they also represent a body of cultural practice that does not account for the specific needs and rights of teenagers," the researchers cautioned.

The researchers are calling for more investigation into the impact of memes and their impact on social policy initiatives. It is not clear what action Parliament might take.

While memes are often innocuous and difficult to decipher for older generations that don’t consume them often, they are being weaponized by some groups.

Internet trolls and propagandists in Russia, Iran, Israel and other countries have used memes to sow discord in the U.S., influence American politics and push pro-nationalist messages.

Alt-right and white nationalist groups have also used memes, in concert with other types of internet content, to spread their views and recruit new members.