Insights Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport House of Commons Select Committee publishes report on Influencer Culture

The Committee launched an inquiry into Influencer Culture in March 2021 to explore the impact that social media influencers have on UK culture and how the industry operates. The report considers the benefits and challenges of the new industry and identifies regulatory gaps to be addressed. For the purposes of the report, “Influencer Culture” is defined as the social phenomenon of individual internet users developing an online community over which they exert commercial and non-commercial influence.

The report states that behind the glamour, which often colours perceptions of influencers, this is a challenging career beset by diversity issues, pay disparities, and a pervasive lack of employment support and protection. Despite the significant returns that influencer culture brings to the UK economy, the industry has not yet been afforded serious consideration by Government.

Further, as the leaders of often small, niche and trusting communities, influencers can offer targeted and effective marketing services. Influencer marketing is therefore offering a lucrative opportunity for brands and advertisers as well as influencers. However, the rapid expansion of this marketplace, both in scale and in technical innovation, has outpaced the capabilities of UK advertising regulation. Updates to the enforcement powers of the Competition and Markets Authority and Advertising Standards Authority are urgently needed to prevent further damage to consumer trust.

The report also notes, with “serious concern”, the lack of protection for children taking part in this new industry, both as consumers of influencer content and as influencers themselves. Influencer content is popular among children, but advertisement regulations do not appropriately consider their developing digital literacy. Additionally, child labour protections do not encompass user generated content and, as such, child influencers may be at risk of exploitation. The report considers it vital that the Government address these regulatory gaps with tailored legislation to ensure that the online environment and the opportunities it presents remain safe and accessible for children. To access the full report, click here.