Instagram to crack down on UK influencers' 'hidden advertising'

Guardian Technology 16 Oct 2020 09:21
Social media influencers can make considerable income by charging fees to promote products on their social channels. Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Instagram is to crack down on social media influencers and celebrities in the UK who post without telling followers they have been paid to do so, following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CMA said on Friday it had investigated the issue of “hidden advertising” and was concerned that the Facebook-owned platform Instagram was not doing enough to tackle the problem.

In response Facebook Ireland, which operates Instagram in the UK, said it had committed to a package of measures including prompting users to clearly disclose if a post has been paid for, and putting in place systems to spot posts for which this has not been done. Clear labelling of incentivised posts is required under UK consumer protection law, so that people are not misled.

Last year the CMA secured formal commitments from 16 celebrities, including Alexa Chung and Ellie Goulding, to clearly state if they have been paid or received any gifts or loans of products when making posts on the Facebook-owned platform.

“For too long, major platforms have shied away from taking responsibility for hidden advertising on their site,” said Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the CMA. “So this commitment to tackle hidden adverts and overhaul the way people post on Instagram – making it difficult for users to ignore the law – is a welcome step forward. These changes mean there will be no excuse for businesses to overlook how their brands are being advertised either, making life a lot harder for those who are not upfront and honest with their followers.”

Further proof that Instagram is big business came earlier this week when it emerged that Chiara Ferragni, Italy’s most famous Instagram star with 21 million followers, is considering a stock market flotation in Milan to monetise the clothing-to-lifestyle personal brand she has built over thepast decade. Based on the revenues the three businesses the 33-year-old controls, her group could be valued at €80m (£73m).

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