Instagram made to crackdown on ‘hidden advertising’ by the CMA

Instagram’s owner Facebook has agreed to make it more difficult for users to post advertising content to its photo-sharing platform without clearly labelling it as such.

Popular users often sign deals to advertise a product or service on their feed, but the distinction between paid-for content and standard posted content is not always clear. Clear labelling of incentivised posts is required under consumer protection law so that people are not misled.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating what it calls “hidden advertising” on Instagram over concerns that too many social media influencers are posting paid content without letting their followers know and that the platform is not doing enough to tackle the problem.

Instagram will now make it easier for all users – and the businesses they promote – to comply with consumer protection law when posting content.

The social network will prompt users to confirm if they have been incentivised in any way to promote a product or service and require them to disclose this if so. It will extend its ‘paid partnership’ tool to all users, which enables people to easily display a clear label at the top of a post.

Instagram is also planning to implement technology and algorithms designed to spot when users might not have disclosed clearly that their post is an advert and report those users to the businesses being promoted.

Under the commitments, Instagram is required to involve businesses in the changes by creating a tool to help them monitor how their products are being promoted.

This package of measures “will make it much harder for people to post an advert on Instagram without labelling it as such,” the CMA said in a statement. Last year, 16 celebrities pledged to clean up their act on social media after CMA action, the watchdog added.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “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.”

Facebook said the company was pleased to be working with the CMA on its continued efforts to increase transparency on when people are paid to post content on Instagram.

“We are also proud to be launching a programme with MediaSmart to help educate young people about branded content and how to identify it,” Facebook added.