Calls for government to regulate dangerous social media influencers

New research from The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology has revealed how little oversight there is in the social media ‘influencer’ industry.

The report identifies the double-standards between the rules for traditional advertisers and individuals who leverage their personal networks to promote brands on social media.

“Social media influencers are profiting while spreading misinformation and shoddy advice online” says Jordan Guiao, Research Fellow from The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

Only two self-regulating codes manage the profitable influencer industry in Australia, where individuals can charge up to $20,000 per post.

The research also highlights influencers providing dangerous health and financial advice, despite their lack of qualifications and expertise in these areas.

The Centre calls on the government and regulatory bodies like the ACCC and ASIC to investigate:

• Regulation parity between influencer advertising and mainstream advertising, to classify influencer profiles to be in line with other advertising channels

• The ACCC to clarify its guidelines for acting on influencer content, reassessing their current ‘proportionality threshold’ for investigating potential breaches from influencers

• Qualifications and certifications needed for sensitive categories like health and finance, so it is made clear where unqualified influencers provide advice in highly regulated subject categories.

“It is a criminal offence to provide unlicensed medical and financial advice, yet many influencers are doing just that on social media.

“Like so many disruptive business models, influencer advertising and advice has managed to slip under the regulatory radar.

"We think it’s the right time for the government and its regulators to review this space, given that it’s increasingly profitable and affects many thousands of Australians who take influencers’ advice to heart.”

The research report “Insta-harms make Insta-money, how unregulated and unqualified social media influencers profit while spreading disinformation and causing harms online” can be downloaded here.