Influencer culture: Lights, camera, inaction? – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Related inquiry: Influencer Culture

Date Published: 9 May 2022

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Summary

Influencer culture is a rapidly expanding and professionalising subsection of the UK’s vibrant creative industries. As social media continues to gain popularity, influencers have utilised this new medium to enhance their content creation and develop online communities around their work and interests. In this report we consider the benefits and challenges of this new industry and identify regulatory gaps to be addressed.

Firstly, we note that behind the glamour that 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.

Secondly, we have observed that 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.

Finally, it is with serious concern that we note 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. It is 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.