Instagram to crack down on UK influencers’ ‘hidden advertising’

CMA investigation found Facebook-owned platform was not doing enough to tackle problem

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of the Instagram logo






Social media influencers can make considerable income by charging fees to promote products on their social channels.
Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

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

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

Social media influencers can get paid considerable amounts by charging companies to promote products with posts that can be seen by their thousands of followers.

Facebook Ireland, which operates Instagram in the UK, has committed to a package of measures including prompting users to clearly disclose if a post has been paid for, and use technology and algorithms 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.

“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.”

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Instagram will now make regular reports on its progress in tackling the problem to the CMA, which said the commitments apply to all Instagram users in the UK as well as anyone globally who directs their posts towards UK users. The CMA said it has not made a finding on whether Instagram’s practices have breached consumer protection law.

“We’re pleased to be working with the CMA on our continued efforts to help people be transparent about when they are paid to post content on Instagram,” a spokesperson for Facebook said. “We are also proud to be launching a programme with Media Smart to help educate young people about branded content and how to identify it.”

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 Instagram.

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