Facebook-owned Instagram is to crackdown on social media influencers and celebrities who make posts without telling followers when they have been paid to do so, following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.
The CMA said it has been investigating the issue of “hidden advertising” by social media influencers and has been concerned that Instagram has not been doing enough to tackle the problem.
Social media influencers can make considerable income by charging fees to companies to promote products with posts that can be seen by thousands of followers of their Instagram profiles.
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 where 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, 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.”
Instagram will now make regular reports on its progress in tackling the issue 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.
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.