Regulating Social Media Influencers – The Big Picture – RSTV IAS UPSC

  • IASbaba
  • June 2, 2021
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The Big Picture- RSTV, UPSC Articles
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TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

In News: Digital media influencers, Youtubers and celebrities promoting their favorite brands might have to be a bit more cautious going forward as a new draft regulation by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) stipulates that all influencers will have to declare if a product or a service is being covered as part of a promotion. The guidelines are similar to the Federal Trade commission guidelines in the United States. The draft proposal is up for public debate till March 8 and is expected to be rolled out by April 15.

What does the Guidelines say?

  • The guidelines say that advertising labels should be clearly visible for video content on all platforms, including mobile phones. Filters on images and videos should not be applied to those posts that claim that the brand has a positive impact, for example, “makes hair shinier”, “teeth whiter” etc.
  • For audio content, the disclosure will have to be announced before and after the content. 
  • In case of social platforms like Instagram, the guidelines suggest that the disclosure label be superimposed on the image. 
  • The content cannot be digitally manipulated to show the product in better light. 
  • Social media influencers are also required to do their due diligence regarding any technical claims being made by them in the advertisement. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation. 
  • The draft guidelines require influencer advertising posts to include a permitted form of disclosure such as #ad, #collab, #promo, #sponsored, and/ or #partnership

Social Media Influencers

Social media Influencers are people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. They make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views. For instance, Footballer Chritiano Ronaldo  keeps his fans committed to his content with regular updates on his life and football practise sessions.

How does it work?

Social influence is the change in behaviour that one person causes in another, intentionally or unintentionally. Social influence and persuasion are the most efficient tools to bring about change in the participation levels of people in policy implementation. And in the age of social media we are witnessing a wide scale impact of social media influencers. 

  • A Social media influencer has the tools and authenticity to attract many viewers consistently and can motivate others to expand their social reach. An influencer may be anyone from a blogger to a celebrity to an online entrepreneur.
  • Their audience isn’t limited to their actual followers; they can connect with the followers of their followers who share their content. As a result, they engage in many sponsored posts, allowing them to be paid for what they share on social media.
  • Also, Social media influencers can have a significant impact on brand outreach considering influencers garner more social engagement than the advertising brand’s account.

Given the menace of fake news on social media where a fact check of claims is absent, certain guidelines for influencer advertising are deemed essential to protect consumers’ interest.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. In the age of social media influencers, ethics and morality have taken a backseat. Do you agree? Critically examine.
  2. With social media becoming more and more socially and politically relevant, should there be a strong regulatory mechanism for it? Discuss.
  3. Should civil servants be active on social media platforms? Share and substantiate your views.
  4. What role do social media platforms play in elections nowadays? Has it affected the democratic discourse? Examine.

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