UK tightens its grip on hidden social media adverts

Competition watchdog in the UK has published three separate guides for social media platforms, brands, and influencers to help users easier spot paid-for online endorsements.

“Hidden adverts are illegal and harmful. They could persuade people to spend money on things they might not buy if they knew the endorsement was paid for, which is even more concerning now people’s finances are squeezed,” George Lusty, Senior Director of Consumer Protection at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA,) said.

The CMA wants social media platforms, advertisers, and influencers to be open and upfront about paid promotions.

Social media companies are asked to provide users with tools to label commercial content and report suspected hidden advertising, use technology to identify hidden ads, and help influencers and brands properly mark their paid-for endorsements.

Advertisers are being asked to inform influencers about the need to mark promotional posts and ask them to remove or amend posts to accurately reflect the commercial relationships.

When it comes to influencers, the CMA reminded that people should be able to recognize an advert as soon as they view it.

“This includes when influencers are paid to post, when they receive gifts and when they post on behalf of a brand they own or are employed by. Posts should clearly display that they are paid-for endorsements using #Ad or #Advert and not use unclear terms, such as #gift, #gifted, or #spon, among other ambiguous hashtags,” the CMA said.

Content creators that mislead customers through hidden ads might be in breach of consumer protection laws.

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