Social Media Influencer Cheats Feel The Long Arm Of.... The Postman

The late, great Robin Williams once hilariously summed up Britain as the only place where a policeman yells, "Halt! Or I'll be forced to say 'Halt' again." It pretty much sums up the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) "action" taken against Social Chain and fifteen companies it worked for with 43 "social media personalities."

Social Chain has accepted the ruling from the CMA that it acted improperly in getting, and i use the word lightly, "celebrities" and influencers to promote products without making it clear that plugs in videos and posts were being paid for. In short, it knew the law, the companies it represents knew the law and you would like to think social media influencers knew the law too.

The unacknowledged advertising is believed to have reached millions of people in social media and even led to hashtags in paid-for messages trending. So, guess what the CMA decided to do? The decisive action began and finished with a letter. Yes, that's right, all that unflagged advertising and social influence resulted in the transgressors receiving a letter. If they're not careful and carry on like this Social Chain and its band of influencers could get the ultimate British deterrent, a very firm and intense "tut."

The latest decisive action came four months after Starcom Mediavest and TAN Media were subjected to the full horror of a letter pointing out that if they arrange advertising for a short-term lender, it would be awfully decent of them to make it clearer.

Hopefully, the letters are enough to let transgressors know that the authorities are on to them and if they don't mend their ways they might have to risk a paper cut opening up another envelope containing a ticking off. I can't help but think that if the worst that can happen if you mislead millions of people is receiving a letter, then it's not exactly the greatest deterrent. 

I can't tell the CMA what to do, but I would make a simple suggestion. Put it right. If a journalist gets something wrong, their publication has to print an apology. OK -- so a false story spread across several pages can sometimes lead to an apology the size of a postage stamp, but the principle is there. Why not make these social influencers apologise for not revealing they were promoting goods and services without letting people know? I would advise against mentioning the brands, who would end up getting a second helping of exposure, but i would also expect them to independently apologise through any of the media they used to mislead the public. 

it's not much to ask for, is it? A letter and an instruction to publicly apologise backed up by the warning of a very hefty fine if they transgress in the future.

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