MPs are calling for tougher legislation to protect young social media influencers – and their followers – from exploitation.
The rise of influencer culture online has brought significant new opportunities for those working in the creative industries and a boost to the UK economy, said a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee.
“However, as is so often the case where social media is involved, if you dig below the shiny surface of what you see on screen you will discover an altogether murkier world where both the influencers and their followers are at risk of exploitation and harm online,” said Julian Knight, chair of the committee.
“Child viewers, who are still developing digital literacy, are in particular danger in an environment where not everything is always as it seems, while there is a woeful lack of protection for young influencers who often spend long hours producing financially lucrative content at the direction of others.”
According to Ofcom data, in 2021 up to half of all children said they watched vlogger or YouTube influencer content.
The committee has called on the government to strengthen employment and advertising laws to protect children – both as viewers and influencers – and online performers.
MPs say children, parents and schools must be given more support in developing media literacy, while rules around advertising for children should also be strengthened, including pay and standards.
Its recommendations also include giving advertising regulators more power to enforce the law around advertising and closing influencer loopholes.
The committee’s report said during its inquiry concerns were raised that some children within the influencer economy were being used by parents and family members – who often manage their online accounts – who were seeking to capitalise on the lucrative online market.
Mr Knight said “inaction” has left regulations behind the times in a digital world and authorities are now “playing catch-up”.
“For too long it has been a case of lights, camera, inaction,” he said.
“It is now up to the government to reshape the rules to keep pace with the changing digital landscape and ensure proper protections for all.”