Instagram to crack down on hidden influencer ads, says UK

LONDON (AP) — British regulators said on Friday Instagram will clamp down on “hidden advertising” by social media influencers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Instagram’s owner Facebook committed to tightening policies to restrict influencers who do not disclose they are being paid to promote businesses on its platform.

It is part of an investigation into the influencer industry the watchdog launched two years ago. Regulators are concerned that Instagram was not doing enough under consumer protection laws to stop hidden advertising, which is illegal in the United Kingdom (UK). They want to make it harder to mislead people with posts that are not labeled as ads.

Influencers are online personalities with thousands of followers who can earn hefty fees from brands for endorsing or reviewing their products or services.

“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,” CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said.

Under the new policy, Instagram will ask users to confirm if they are getting a reward for promoting a product or service and if they are, make them disclose it clearly.

The company will also start using technology and algorithms to spot users who have not clearly revealed that their posts are advertisements, and then report those users to the businesses they are promoting.

Instagram is also opening up its “paid partnership” tool, so that any user can display a label at the top of a post.

The changes apply to UK-based users as well as anyone globally who is targetting Instagram users in the UK.

As part of its investigation, the competition authority last year secured formal commitments from 16 celebrities, including singers Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora, to label any posts that involved payments for or gifts of products they were pitching.

The Competition and Markets Authority said Instagram’s owner Facebook committed to tightening up policies to restrict influencers who do not disclose they are being paid to promote businesses on its platform. PHOTO: AP