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Influencer culture: Lights, camera, inaction – DCMS Committee publishes responses from CMA and ASA

22 July 2022

The DCMS Committee publishes responses to its report on influencer culture from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The report, published in May, highlighted how the growth in the influencer market has exposed a number of regulatory gaps, particularly around advertising disclosure and protection for children, both as influencers and viewers. It called on the Government to strengthen employment law and advertising regulations.

The Committee recommended that ASA, the self-regulatory organisation of the advertising industry, be given statutory powers to enforce the non-broadcasting advertising code (CAP code) and strengthen disclosure standards for adverts online targeted at children.

In its response, ASA fails to commit to the Committee’s recommendation that the CAP code should require virtual influencers to be watermarked, to flag that the influencer is virtual and make clear details of the owner.

Chair's comment

Chair of the DCMS Committee Julian Knight MP said:

“While content from virtual influencers may be flagged as an advert, without the extra information from a watermark viewers will be entirely oblivious to the individual or brand behind the image, or even the fact that the human-like persona is not a real person at all. Realistic but ultimately fake images pushed by undeclared computer-generated characters also have the potential to cause huge harm to the self-esteem and confidence of those online.

The ASA’s focus on remedies after a problem has arisen rather than on prevention is wrong. There needs to be full disclosure at the time of the virtual influencers’ posts, so viewers can be fully aware of who is really pulling the strings and their intentions.”

The response from the CMA, the competition regulator in United Kingdom, updates the Committee on its work investigating the role that social media platforms play in influencer endorsements and its development of monitoring technology.

The response from the DCMS Department is expected after the summer recess.

Further information

Image: CC0