South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission is going to step up efforts to investigate illegal advertisements by Korean influencers on Instagram with plans to either order the brands advertising with them to make changes or be faced with fines.
Instagram is South Korea’s second most popular social platform after Facebook.
The FTC said it has found several cases of suspected paid advertisement on posts uploaded by influencers, that features content and images provided by advertisers, reports the Joongan Ilbo. However, regulators have said it has yet to confirm if the influencers received compensation for uploading the suspicious content.
Efforts by the FTC will focus on influencers who have given increased exposure to brands without revealing financial ties between their content and the company. The antitrust agency said the process is complicated by the fact that on Instagram brands can discreetly advertise across a large number of posts, whereas other, longer form platforms can be contained in a single post.
Back in 2014, the government launched a similar crackdown on “power bloggers” who posted content that was disguised as legitimate reviews.
Big name brands such as Korea’s Oriental Brewery, Audi Volkswagen Korea, Cafe Bene, and others were hit with combined fines worth 300 million won ($267,020) for hiding compensation to bloggers in exchange for positive reviews.
The FTC then launched a policy requiring bloggers to clearly specify that they were compensated, be by payment in cash or gift certificates.
In Min-ho, director of the FTC’s consumer protection department says the goal the new Instagram-focused initiative is to improve the user experience.
“Through the investigation, the social network’s role in mutually sharing [legitimate] experience among consumers will improve.”