25 July 2023

Tougher rules will target illegal ads and fake influencer scams, says Government

25 July 2023

Tougher new rules are set to clamp down on illegal and age-restricted adverts and fake celebrity scams, the Government has said.

New plans to protect consumers and children online follow a review into paid-for online advertising as part of the Online Advertising Programme.

Social media platforms, websites, and services such as Google Ads will have to take stricter action to stop children seeing age-restricted adverts for products like alcohol or gambling, and adult-rated films and games, under the proposed new laws.

The rules will place more responsibility on major players in the industry, from social media giants through to tech companies who facilitate ad placements which appear on websites or pop up online.

Our plans will shut down the scammers using online adverts to con people out of their cash and will stop damaging and inappropriate products being targeted at children

They aim to also prevent fake celebrity endorsements of financial scams, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said.

The move comes amid a rise in the creation of “deepfake” adverts, which replicate a celebrity or influencer’s face and voice using AI technology to make it seem like they are endorsing a certain product.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis warned consumers earlier this month over a scam advert which appeared to show him endorsing an investment scheme through an AI-generated video.

Some social media platforms, such as Meta, now only allow financial services advertisers that are approved by the UK regulator to target users online.

But the Government’s plans will also clamp down on adverts promoting illegal products, such as weapons, drugs, fake designer clothes and fake tickets.

Social media influencers who receive payment or free products for promotional posts will also be covered under the regulations.

Creative industries minister Sir John Whittingdale said: “Advertising is a huge industry in which Britain is a world leader.

“However, as online advertising has taken a steadily bigger share, the rules governing it have not kept pace and so we intend to strengthen them to ensure consumers are properly protected.

“Our plans will shut down the scammers using online adverts to con people out of their cash and will stop damaging and inappropriate products being targeted at children.

“We will make sure that our proposed regulation helps keep people safe while supporting and enhancing the legitimate advertising industry so it can maximise its innovation and potential.”

The proposals are working in tandem with the Online Safety Bill, a landmark piece of legislation which is set to place new rules on tech giants in a bid to crack down on illegal and harmful content online.

It is aimed at user-generated content, rather than harmful advertising by legitimate companies which is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) watchdog.

Ministers will set up a new taskforce this week to get more insight into illegal advertising and work with industry leaders before the legislation is drawn up.

The Government will also launch a further consultation to hear feedback from the advertising industry and tackle concerns such as whether the new rules could impact innovation in the sector.

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