The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a non-ministerial U.K. government agency responsible for strengthening business competition, is cracking down on what it terms “hidden advertising” on Instagram.
In a release, the CMA announced that Facebook Ireland — which operates Instagram in the U.K. — has agreed to a package of changes to redress sponsored posts that aren’t being clearly labeled on the platform, following an ongoing investigation.
The changes that Instagram has agreed to, per CMA, include: a prompt asking users if they have been incentivized to share posts that appear to be sponsored; the extension of its ‘paid partnership’ tool to all users, which clearly labels sponsored posts; the implementation of algorithms to spot unclear disclosures; and the creation of a new tools for businesses allowing them to monitor how their products are being promoted, to empower them to better comply with consumer protection laws.
CMA notes that Instagram will report its progress with respect to the above measures “regularly.” The changes will apply to all Instagram users in the U.K., “as well as anyone globally who directs their posts towards Instagram users in the UK.,” the agency said.
“For too long, major platforms have shied away from taking responsibility for hidden advertising on their site,” CMA chief Andrea Coscelli said in a statement. “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.”
CMA notes that its pact with Instagram does not indicate it has concluded the company has breached consumer protection laws, nor is the platform conceding it has done so by agreeing to the changes.
Last year, CMA formally pacted with 16 celebrities — including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, Alexa Chung, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley — who pledged to clearly label sponsored Instagram posts as part of its ongoing work to crack down on improper Instagram disclosures.