Instagram commits to stricter ad disclosure regulations

Hannah Monds

19 Oct 2020 · 2 min read

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On October 16th, Facebook Ireland Limited (the branch of Facebook responsible for the UK) made a public agreement with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it will do more to prevent hidden advertising in content posted to its platform. The CMA is the UK government entity that protects consumer rights. For some time, they’ve been investigating Instagram for not doing enough to ensure influencers are properly disclosing paid partnerships and ads.

Hidden ads are illegal, and yet not disclosing paid partnerships on Instagram and Facebook is a widespread practice. According to guidelines, the fact that a post is sponsored must be “visible enough that consumers would easily notice it”. But according to independent research done by global affiliate network AWIN, 75% of influencers hide the #affiliate, #ad, #sponsored, or #partner hashtags deep inside the post caption, or bury it in a long list of hashtags at the end of the post. Additionally, it was found that only 13% of posts analyzed included the words “paid partnership”, or an equivalent thereof, at the top of the post where a post’s location is often displayed.

Now, Facebook is publicly volunteering to combat this issue from within the platform itself.

Facebook’s commitment to change addresses multiple arenas; preventative measures, new user guidelines, new AI ad recognition technology, and new consequences for those users who don’t comply. These changes will begin taking place in the coming months, with full adoption of all new policies and technologies coming next year.

First, Instagram will seek to cut down on misleading posts by preventing them in the first place. By January 2021, technology will be in place that prompts the user to disclose if they’ve been offered compensation before posting. If they have indeed been paid to promote a business, product, or service, they will be prevented from publishing that post if they haven’t included a clear enough disclosure. If the influencer has properly shown that the content is sponsored, then they’re free to post.

Additionally, Facebook is revising its user guidelines and terms of use. According to the CMA’s public website, “Instagram has committed to the CMA that it will revise and make clearer its policies governing the publication of incentivized endorsements and, importantly, uphold its Terms of Use which include the deletion of posts or termination of user accounts that are found to have breached these policies.” Although it hasn’t been confirmed whether these new terms of use will be implemented worldwide or in the UK only.

There will also be new consequences for influencers who are found to be in breach of these new terms, namely, Instagram will now report users who inadequately label their sponsored posts to the businesses whose products they are endorsing. Those businesses will then be in charge of taking the appropriate action.

A spokesman for the CMA called Instagram's move "an important behavioral shift" for social media platforms, saying, “This will make it much harder for people to post an advert on Instagram without labeling it as such.”

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