The UK government released its investigation into the influencer industry and the culture surrounding it on 9 May. This was the culmination of eight months of research and interviews with influencers, industry leaders and academics by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to ascertain the benefits of creator marketing, the challenges and how its economy works.
The resulting report – Influencer Culture: lights, camera, inaction? – lists a series of recommendations on legislation and regulations required to better the industry for influencers and consumers. These are the eight of the recommendations which everyone working in digital should be aware of.
- Protection of child creators is the most urgent priority of the committee. The committee have recommended legislation to set out appropriate working hours and conditions, protect children’s earnings and ensure their right to erase content. They have also proposed child creators are monitored by their local authority.
- The committee has supported the Advertising Standard Agency (ASA) and Competition and Market Authority’s push for more power to enforce the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code of guidelines for influencers working commercially with brands. Two major recommendations here are that influencers who are non-compliant should be subject to turnover-based fines and the condition of “editorial control” should be removed from the definition of advertising when it comes to influencer content.
- While the ASA stands to gain more power, it will also be held accountable to a higher standard. The government has requested an annual review on influencer compliance with the CAP Code produced by the regulator.
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- In a hearing for the inquiry, the ASA and CMA shared they have developed technology to mass monitor and analyse influencer content. This is driven by machine learning and the committee has requested an annual report on this monitoring strategy. The report also noted there are currently no measures in place to mitigate the risks of bias that are common with machine learning technology.
- The Cap Code is set to be updated to include “enhanced disclosure” standards for influencers whose adverts are aimed at children. While the nature of this has not been outlined, the committee wants to ensure children are in no doubt when content is advertising.
- Virtual influencer content should be watermarked and include the details of the owner and their motivation for creating content. This follows concerns raised that human influencers are held to a higher standard by the regulators than their virtual counterparts. Having this information readily available will make it easier for the regulator to enforce the CAP Code.
- A review of influencer fees has been recommended as a way to begin closing the influencer pay gap. The disparity between the fees earned by influencers of colour and white influencers was discussed at length, as was the role of social platforms in paying creators. Satisfactory payment for influencers and some form of standardisation appear to be in the pipeline following the committee’s investigation.
- Ofcom should develop and enforce new practices for tackling online harassment. The committee stated these practices should not mimic those already in place by social platforms, suggesting it found their methods ineffective.
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