Culture of influence: MEPs call for changes to advertising and employment rules

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The rise of online influencers has exposed regulatory loopholes that put children at risk of exploitation and unacceptable compliance with advertising rules, according to a new report by MPs.

A report by the Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on influencer culture has called on the government to strengthen employment and advertising laws to protect children – both as viewers and influencers – and artists online.

In their recommendations, MEPs say that children, parents and schools must be further supported in developing media literacy and that rules on advertising for children must also be strengthened, while updates UK child labor regulations need to be updated to reflect the growth of the child. influencers.

It also calls for the establishment of a code of conduct for influencer marketing.

In addition, the report urges the government to conduct a study of the influencer ecosystem so that it can be properly regulated as it grows and manage rules around remuneration standards and practices, and that ad regulators have more power to enforce advertising law and fill in the gaps for influencers.

“The rise of online influencer culture has brought significant new opportunities for those working in the creative industries and a boost to the UK economy,” said Julian Knight, chairman of the committee.

“However, as is often the case when social media is involved, if you dig beneath the shiny surface of what you see on screen, you’ll discover an altogether murkier world where influencers and their followers risk to be exploited and harmed online.

“Child viewers, who are still developing digital literacy, are particularly at risk in an environment where all is not always as it seems, while there is a severe lack of protection for young influencers who often spend long hours to produce financially lucrative content at the direction of others.”

Mr Knight added that “inaction” had left regulations behind in a digital world, and that was of particular concern when it came to protecting children.

According to Ofcom data, in 2021 up to half of all children said they had watched vlogger or YouTube influencer content.

The committee’s report said it had heard concerns during its investigation that some children within the influencer economy were being used by parents and family members – who often manage their accounts online – who were looking to capitalize on the lucrative online market.

“The explosion in influencer activity has left authorities playing catch-up and exposed the impotence of advertising rules and job protections designed before social media was the global monster it has become today. today,” Mr. Knight said.

“This report has mirrored the issues besetting the industry, where for too long it has been about lights, cameras, inaction.

“It is now up to the government to reshape the rules to keep pace with the changing digital landscape and ensure appropriate protections for all.”

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