Warning for celebrities over misleading Instagram posts

Posted on April 24, 2017


Photo-sharing platform Instagram has recently cautioned its celebrity users about their conduct regarding misleading posts that have not been clearly marked as ads and promotions.

This action follows a number of complaints that these high-profile users could potentially be breaching consumers’ rights laws.

Both the UK and the US are clamping down on the way influential social media accounts, which more often than not boast millions of followers, willingly share paid-for material on the social network.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission issued letters warning 90 celebrities about their conduct on the platform and urged them to disclose and inform their followers when they are posting sponsored material. It requests that this is done in a clear way high up in the post.

In the UK, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has confirmed that it too has also been actively cracking down on this issue, working alongside a number of companies and high-profile users in order to make sure its guidelines are being met.

The recent warning from the US comes after Public Citizen, a rights organisation, voiced its concerns with the UK watchdog regarding the endorsements of 113 celebrities and public figures, including popstars Rita Ora and Rihanna, as well as US reality star and model Kylie Jenner, who alone boasts more than 91 million followers on Instagram.

Furthermore, as well as advising these influential Instagram users about which posts would require a discloser, the Federal Trade Commission explained to the celebrities that these disclaimers must appear early on in their posts, adding that they should include a hashtag that would indicate the post is an endorsement. It stated that hashtags such as #sponsored and #ad would be sufficient. It also made it clear that using these tags at the end of the post is not allowed, nor are any alternative versions of the hashtag, such as #partner or #sp.

The Commission stated that it requires these tags and disclaimers to appear at the top of a post because more Instagram posts are typically viewed on mobile devices, and it is usually the case that only the first three lines of a long post are visible unless the user clicks on the ‘more’ button to read the rest of the caption. As a result, celebrity users have been informed that disclaimers should appear before the button to ensure that followers do not skip over them.

Sponsored lifestyle blogging on platforms such as Instagram is believed to be a lucrative industry, and is one that is increasingly being criticised over a lack of transparency. Here in the UK, the ASA upheld a complaint made against a beauty blogger for failing to provide a disclaimer with their post.

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