Instagram will do more to prevent hidden advertising on its app and website, signalling an important behaviour shift by a major platform. 

Facebook Ireland Ltd, which operates Instagram in the UK, has committed to a package of changes to tackle hidden advertising on the photo and video sharing platform.  

This will make it much harder for people to post an advert on Instagram without labelling it as such. Clear labelling of incentivised posts is required under consumer protection law so that people are not misled. 

The Competition and Markets Authority has been investigating hidden advertising on Instagram over concerns that too many social media influencers are posting content about businesses without making clear where they have been paid or incentivised to do so, and that the platform was 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. 

Instagram will: 

  • Prompt users to confirm if they have been incentivised in any way to promote a product or service and, if so, require them to disclose this fact clearly.
  • Extend its ‘paid partnership’ tool to all users. This enables people easily to display a clear label at the top of a post.
  • Use 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 also required to involve businesses in the changes by creating a tool to help them monitor how their products are being promoted.  

As a result, businesses should do their part to comply with consumer protection law and take action where appropriate, including asking the platform to remove posts if necessary. 

Instagram will report its progress against all commitments to the CMA regularly. 

It is part of a wider investigation into misleading online endorsementsLast year, 16 celebrities pledged to clean up their act on social media following CMA action.   

“For too long, major platforms have shied away from taking responsibility for hidden advertising on their site,” said CMA chief Andrea Coscelli.  

So, this commitment to tackle hidden adverts and overhaul the way people post on Instagram – making it difficult for users to ignore the law – is a welcome step forward. 

“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.” 

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