Influencers slammed in bombshell report

·2-min read
Australian social media influences may be in foul of advertising standards after a fresh report found a vast number are overwhelmingly misleading their followers. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)
Australian social media influences may be in foul of advertising standards after a fresh report found a vast number are overwhelmingly misleading their followers. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)

Australian social media influencers may be in foul of advertising standards after a fresh report found a vast number are overwhelmingly misleading their followers.

A study by the consumer watchdog found concerns with 81 per cent of posts by more than 100 influencers made since January, citing concerns around “potentially misleading endorsements and testimonials”.

The findings has the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) considering whether the current self-regulated system needed to be beefed up.

“Consumers are unable to make informed choices about purchases when endorsements and sponsored posts are not clearly disclosed,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

In Australia, influencers must disclose if they have accepted payment, or free products or services from a brand.

But the report questioned the compliance of the vast majority of influencers.

The report identified a vast majority of posts were misleading. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)
The report identified a vast majority of posts were misleading. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)

“Influencers have incentives not to disclose endorsement deals or ‘over commercialise’ as their advertising influence largely relies on their authenticity,” the latest Digital Platform Services Inquiry read.

The ACCC launched the sweep earlier this year to identify misleading testimonials and endorsements and received more than 150 tip-offs from consumers.

It found that even when influencers disclosed advertising it was not clear or prominent, for example placing #ad or #sponsored at the bottom of lengthy captions which consumers are required to ‘click more’ to find.

The most alarming posts came from influencers in the fashion industry, where 96 per cent of posts were labelled “concerning” – signalling out the ‘get ready with me’ style posts.

Home and parenting (81 per cent) and travel influencers (79 per cent) had the next highest number of problematic posts.

Get ready with me style videos were problematic, the report found. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)
Get ready with me style videos were problematic, the report found. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

Common examples included influencers tagging brands in posts, product placement in photos or videos, vague disclosures (such as thanking brands, and the use of discount codes or referral links.

The rise of ‘kidfluencers’, children who feature in content managed by their parents, and the privacy risks associated were also raised as a concern in the report.

The review is just one part of the ACCC’s years-long Digital Platform Services Inquiry, due to completed in early 2025.

The report also found a range of harms to consumers across social media including the prevalence of scams.

Australians reported losses of over $80 million to scams initiated on social media alone in 2022. This is up from reported losses of $56 million in 2021 and $27 million in 2020.