Instagram commits to tackling hidden advertising after CMA action

LaToya Harding
·2 min read
Instagram app users
Instagram has committed to a package of changes which will make it harder for users to post an ad on the platform without correct advertising labels. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Instagram has promised to do more to prevent hidden advertising on its app and website after recent action from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Facebook Ireland (FB), which operates the social media platform in the UK, has committed to a package of changes which will make it harder for users to post an ad on Instagram without correct advertising labels.

The CMA has been investigating Instagram over concerns that it was not doing enough under UK consumer protection law to prevent its users from endorsing businesses without making it clear that they had been paid or given free gifts to do so.

Hidden advertising is illegal in the UK. Clear labelling of incentivised posts is required under consumer protection law so that people are not misled.

By the end of this year, anyone attempting to endorse a business on Instagram will be prompted to confirm before posting if it appears they have been offered an incentive. If they have, they will not be able to publish their post until they have included a clear disclosure.

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Instagram has promised to extend its ‘paid partnership’ tool to all users, enabling people easily to display a clear label at the top of a post.

By next summer, Instagram said it will report users posting suspected unlabelled content to the businesses whose products they are endorsing. Those businesses will then be able to take appropriate action, including asking Instagram to remove posts.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “For too long, major platforms have shied away from taking responsibility for hidden advertising on their site. 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.”

The announcement applies to all users across the UK as well as anyone globally who directs their posts towards Instagram users in the UK.

Last year, 16 celebrities pledged to clean up their act on social media following the CMA action.

According to analytics firm Instascreener, marketing spend for influencer advertising has consistently risen over the last few years, reaching nearly $500m (£409m) in the second quarter this year. Influencer marketing agency Mediakix values Instagram’s influencer market at $1bn alone.

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