UK government issues response to Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on influencer culture

September 27, 2022

 The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published its report on influencer culture on 9 May 2022. It highlighted how the growth in the influencer market has exposed several regulatory gaps. The UK government’s response has now been published.

The government says that it welcomes the publication of the report and is grateful for the Committee’s comprehensive inquiry into influencer culture. It also recognises the rise of influencer culture and the impact this is having on both traditional and digital media as well as advertising.

The government agrees with the Committee that pursuing a career as an influencer often comes with unrecognised challenges, including with those in the public eye often facing harassment online. It recognises that there has been a worrying rise in the amount of online abuse, harassment and intimidation directed at those in public life, including influencers. It says that its aim to “make the UK the safest place in the world to be online” and refers to the Online Safety Bill which will require tech companies to improve the safety of their users. Tech companies will also be required to take swift and effective action against threats on their services.

The government is aware of the regulatory gap when protecting child influencers to ensure they have suitable working conditions, and the Department for Education is open to exploring what legislative options may provide children with greater protection.

The government also recognises the risk of children being exploited as both consumers of influencer content and as influencers themselves. Children are often unable to identify undisclosed advertising and find it difficult to separate this from other types of content they view on social media. Through the Government’s existing work on the Online Media Strategy it intends to support online users by providing them with the guidance that they need to identify different types of content online such as advertisements (Ofcom has also issued guidance on media literacy). The government will work with industry partners to improve advertising disclosure rates from influencers, with the aim of improving the transparency of their posts.

The government says that it strongly supports the work of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’ (ISBA) on creating an influencer code of conduct, which now calls on its associated members to make commitments to diversity and inclusion. It also agrees with the Committee that developing a code of conduct which promotes best practice for arrangements between influencers, brands and talent agencies would effectively complement ISBA’s existing work in this field. It has held initial discussions with industry partners on what guidance should be included as part of the proposed code of conduct and looks forward to continuing to develop this piece of work with them.

The Government welcomes the Committee’s recommendations regarding the powers available to the Advertising Standards Authority. Through its work on the Online Advertising Programme the Government is currently considering the ASA’s tools and will update on its findings in due course.

The government believes that the Committee’s report sheds light on the influencer ecosystem. Therefore, its first focus will be on working through as many of the specific proposed frontline actions as possible. As a result, the government does not currently wish to commit to commissioning a review of the influencer marketplace but says that it will keep things under review.