Instagram’s New Video Feature at Risk of Violating FTC Advertising Rules

June 21, 2018

Instagram’s New Video Feature at Risk of Violating FTC Advertising Rules

Statement of Kristen Strader, Campaign Coordinator, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert

Note: This week, Instagram released a new video app, IGTV, which allows users to upload long videos similar to YouTube.

Instagram already has an advertising problem – and now it is at risk of making it worse. Instagram users constantly are bombarded with advertisements disguised as genuine content. Celebrities, musicians, fitness gurus and lifestyle bloggers are paid to promote products to their followers without disclosing payment. Instagram’s new video feature expands opportunities for undisclosed advertising and consumer deceit.

Instagram has created this feature to compete with YouTube, a platform that has its own problems with deceptive advertising. Companies pay influencers to promote products on YouTube through favorable reviews, taste testings and general promotion. Now that it has created a similar platform, Instagram has a responsibility to ensure that the same deceitful advertising practices on YouTube do not carry over to Instagram’s new IGTV.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a long-standing policy that people have a right to know when they are targets of advertising. Anyone who promotes sponsored content can abide by the policy by using #advertisement in a sponsored post, but most do not, leaving users on their own to determine whether content is an ad or a genuine post. They usually don’t realize that those influencers are paid and may not even use the touted brand.

Instagram should design a system that prevents companies and influencers from tricking users with hidden ads and ensures that users know when they are being advertised to.

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