UK could clamp down on influencer advertising over mental health impact

MPs claim regulation and employment protection has failed to keep pace with the growth of online influencer culture, “leaving those working in the industry with a lack of support, child influencers at risk of exploitation, and unacceptably low rates of compliance with advertising rules”. That could impact the fashion and beauty sectors heavily as they rely on influencers to promote their products via social media.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) now wants the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to increase efforts on enforcing its rules “in light of the potential for harm that comes from influencer marketing having a deleterious effect on young people’s mental health”. It highlighted the “potential harm that comes from influencers’ misbehaviour on social platforms, particularly where that behaviour intersects with particularly young audiences”.  Julian Knight, committee chairman of the DCMS, said: “If you dig below the shiny surface of what you see on screen you will discover an altogether murkier world, where both the influencers and their followers are at risk of exploitation and harm online.  “The explosion in influencer activity has left the authorities playing catch-up, and exposed the impotence of advertising rules and employment protections designed for a time before social media was the all-encompassing behemoth it has become today.”  It follows attempts from regulators including the ASA and platforms themselves to ensure that influencer marketing best practices are consistently applied. The ASA said: “We will consider carefully the recommendations in the DCMS Committee Report on Influencer Culture that relate to advertising.” As part of the commitment, the ASA relaunched its ‘name and shame’ strategy of spotlighting influencers who failed to disclose sponsorships in June last year. In March, it named a third offender, reality TV star Charlotte Crosby, for “repeatedly failing to flag ads on her Instagram” account. She joined fellow Geordie Shore star Scott Timlin and former Love Island winner Amber Gill on the list. 

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