Influencers monetising ‘misinformation’ and ‘shoddy recommendation’, in keeping with new report
A new report has urged the government to introduce stricter rules on influencers, claiming there is “little oversight” of the social media advertising industry.
The Australia Institute’s Center for Responsible Technology report claims influencers are “dangerous health and financial advice, despite their lack of qualifications and expertise in these areas.”
Research fellow Jordan Guiao said he has seen influencers who “promote extremely harmful conspiracy theories and undermine public health”.
In the report, he claims a mummy blogger with hundreds of thousands of followers posted “misinformation” questioning the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and the severity of the virus.
A former reality TV star is also named in the report for “monetizing” her fitness and “nutrition” tips and for doing various branded deals while not having any qualifications in these areas.
“Social media influencers benefit by spreading misinformation and shoddy advice online,” said Guiao.
“It is a criminal offense to provide unlicensed medical and financial advice, but a lot of influencers do just that on social media,” he said.
“Like so many disruptive business models, influencer advertising and advice has also managed to get under the regulatory radar.”
Mr. Guiao said there are two sets of standards between the rules for traditional advertisers and influencers on social media.
He claims that only two self-regulating codes are managing the profitable influencer industry in Australia, where individuals can charge up to $ 20,000 per post.
The institute is calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to clarify their influencer content guidelines and ensure that health and financial advertising qualifications are required.
Australian regulator ACCC can impose a fine of up to $ 500,000 for an individual or $ 10 million for a company for violating advertising regulations.
“We believe the time is right for the government and its regulators to review this area as it is increasingly profitable and affects many thousands of Australians who take the advice of influencers to heart,” said Guiao.
A six-month investigation by The Feed earlier this year revealed a hidden advertising culture on Instagram where influencers, brands and agencies ignore rules and regulations designed to protect consumers.
Journalists Caliste Weitenberg and Elise Potaka revealed that influencers and brands in Australia do not clearly label sponsored content as advertising.
After the investigation aired by The Feed, advertising regulator Ad Standards upheld a complaint against reality TV star / influencer Anna Heinreich and the Runaway The Label brand over a sponsored post that wasn’t clearly labeled as such.
The feed contacted ACCC for a response, but they declined to comment and referred us to the Therapeutic Goods Administration and instead Australian Securities and Investment Commission.
In May, an ACCC spokesperson told The Feed: “We use a number of tools to encourage compliance with the ACL (Australian Consumer Law) by all retailers, including influencers.
“This includes educating businesses and consumers as well as working closely with stakeholders and other authorities to improve compliance in an industry.”
The feed asked Facebook, which owns Instagram, for a comment. A spokesperson didn’t answer our questions about the report and instead referred The Feed to its guidelines for YouTubers and advertisers.
The guidelines state that misleading medical information and misinformation, including “anti-vaccination claims” “cannot be monetized”.