4-in-5 Euro influencers breaking ad rules


Issue #134 | Your reading time this week is 5 mins. 45 secs.

Welcome back to the Creator Briefing.

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Here is just some of what I’ve been thinking about this week:

  • President Biden’s re-election campaign launches TikTok account

  • UK recruits influencers to help ‘stop the boats’

  • The IMTB partners with Influencer360 for the second year in a row

  • European Commission finds influencers rarely disclose commercial content

  • How malicious content flagging leads to de-platforming and loss of career

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YouTube Stats 

  • There are >3m channels in the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) - giving creators various ways to earn money on YouTube

  • YPP has paid over $70 billion to creators, artists, and media companies over the last three years

  • Shorts is averaging over 70 billion daily views

  • Shorts has grown 50% year over year

  • YouTube Music and Premium has crossed 100M subscribers Source and source

Meta Stats

  • 40% of the content that people see on Instagram now comes via AI recommendations

  • Over the past year, Meta’s AI recommendations have driven a 7% increase in time spent on Facebook, and a 6% increase in the same on Instagram

  • Daily watch time across all video types grew by more than 25% year-over-year in Q4 2023

  • People are now resharing Reels 3.5 billion times every single day


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President Biden’s re-election campaign launches TikTok account

President Biden is now on Double T. It’s a bid to tap into the youth vote - a demographic which is less engaged with traditional media channels. 

Government employees are barred from having TikTok on their work-issued hardware under legislation signed by Biden himself back in 2022. This follows concerns that the Chinese Communist Party may have access to user data via the Chinese-owned app.

Other governments around the world have banned officials from using TikTok including the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the European Union, Canada and Belgium - we covered the roll call of countries back in Creator Briefing #98.

Biden’s use of TikTok highlights a great conflict at the heart of many governments and transnational companies: on the one hand the potential threat to national security through data leakage. On the other, a need for politicians to be able to reach young voters where ‘they live’ online. The account was unveiled during the Super Bowl.

UK recruits influencers to help ‘stop the boats’

Influencers in Albania, Iraq, Egypt and Vietnam, are being tapped by the Home Office to create content which tells their home audiences not to attempt crossing the Channel to the UK in small boats. 

These countries have been targeted because they account for a large amount of illegal migration to the UK. According to the Times, there are plans to extend the country list to include Turkey and India. 

As an influencer marketing campaign with content appearing on the creators’ profiles only, the initiative works within the confines of the self-imposed ban on government use of TikTok.

Interestingly, the initiative to publicise new immigration laws, including the threat of deportation to Rwanda with the help of influencers was dismissed as “frivolous” by Suella Braverman when she was Home Secretary. 

This is yet another example of influencer marketing being put into harness beyond selling product.

Influencer360 partners with IMTB for the second year in a row

For the second year running Haymarket Media has selected the Influencer Marketing Trade Body (IMTB) as its official association partner for Influencer360 - its prestigious summit.

Fronted by leading industry publications, PRWeek and Campaign, Influencer360 is a one-day conference devoted to uniting influencer marketing practitioners from both top brands and agencies. 

Together delegates will discuss the latest opportunities and threats affecting our sector.

John Harrington, PRWeek UK Editor said of the renewed partnership:

"PRWeek and Campaign’s Influencer360 is back, bigger and better - and in London for 2024. With the influencer landscape constantly evolving, from new tech to new platforms, we are excited to announce a partnership with the Influencer Marketing Trade Body for the second year. With the expertise of IMTB founder Scott Guthrie, alongside great brands and agencies, we're gearing up to elevate this event to new heights.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Meta announces new transparency measures for organic AI-generated content

Meta is to launch a new approach to labelling realistic AI-generated organic media.

This will be achieved either by automated labelling on images from several AI tools or self-disclosure on video and audio. 

Key takeaways include:

  • Labelling AI-generated organic images that users (including business users) post to Facebook, Instagram, and Threads (when they can detect it).

  • Introducing a self-disclosure label that users can add to AI-generated videos and audio, with a possible penalty to anyone who fails to disclose.

  • If Meta determines that a digitally created or altered image, video, or audio creates a particularly high risk of materially deceiving the public on a matter of importance, it may add a more prominent label so people have more information and context. 

Creators are the media

YouTube CEO, Neal Mohan has delivered his four main priorities for the year.

  1. AI will empower human creativity.

  2. Creators should be recognized as next-generation studios.

  3. YouTube’s next frontier is the living room and subscriptions.

  4. Protecting the creator economy is foundational.

Mohan notes creators are “redefining the future of the entertainment industry with top-notch storytelling that can’t be dismissed as simply ‘user-generated content.’”

An end to creators making ‘trauma porn’

In Creator Briefing #124 we covered the story of creators making ‘trauma porn’. It was a miserable tale of exploitation. YouTube channel USALIVESTREAM with over 650k views at the time of writing in November last year pointed a livestream camera at a corner of Kensington Avenue in the Kingston district of U.S. city, Philadelphia.

For addicts, the area is an open-air drug market - sometimes called ‘Zombie Land’. For some YouTubers and TikTokers it’s a content farm.

USALIVESTREAM wasn’t the only social media channel exploiting the homeless and desperate, BumsNDrones, as the name suggests, filmed drone footage on the same down-at-heel corner of Philadelphia.

This week both TikTok and YouTube suspended the account for policy violations after a Forbes inquiry. “We terminated the channels in question for violating YouTube’s community guidelines, which prohibit stalking and other forms of harassment,” Javier Hernandez, a YouTube spokesperson, told Forbes in an email.

However, the account remains available on Meta platforms: Facebook and Instagram where it has more than 1 million followers. Meta told Forbes it was reviewing the content and would remove anything that violates its policies. 

European Commission finds influencers rarely disclose commercial content

Last October I brought you the news that the European Commission, along with consumer protection authorities, were launching a sweep on creator content (Creator Briefing #122).

Well, the results from this spot-check are in and, they’re uncomfortable reading for our industry. 

H/T to Quentin Bordage, CEO of Kolsquare, for sharing the release with me. 

Some key findings from the sweep

  • 97% published posts with commercial content, but only 20% systematically disclosed this as advertising;

  • 38% of them did not use the platform labels that serve to disclose commercial content, such as the “paid partnership” toggle on Instagram, on the contrary, these influencers opted for different wording, such as “collaboration” (16%), “partnership” (15%) or generic thanks to the partner brand (11%,);

  • 40% of influencers endorsed their own products, services, or brands. 60% of those did not consistently, or at all, disclose advertising;

Clearly, there is much work to be done to bring regulation awareness and ultimately compliance to this space within Europe.

The results don't fully explain the methodology, though. This is problematic. We now know the sample size, but not the breakdown by country or by industry sector.

We know the size of the following of influencers but not which band was most likely to break the rules.

Digging into the numbers:

  • Content from 576 influencers published on major social media platforms were checked

  • 82 influencers had over 1 million followers

  • 301 over 100,000 

  • 73 between 5,000 and 100,000. 

It is not clear whether the follower counts combine audiences across all platforms where the influencer posts. I suspect it is a combination.

  • 572 influencers had posts on Instagram

  • 334 on TikTok

  • 224 on YouTube

  • 202 on Facebook

  • 82 on X (formerly Twitter)

  • 52 on Snapchat

  • 28 on Twitch. 

The main sectors of activity concerned are, in decreasing order, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, travel and fitness/sport. 

119 influencers were considered to be promoting unhealthy or hazardous activities, such as junk food, alcoholic beverages, medical or aesthetic treatments, gambling, or financial services such as crypto trading. 

The problem with the sampling

It’s not clear how the list of 576 influencers was compiled. 

A sample of 576 influencers across 24 countries is a sample size of 24 influencers per region which seems limiting at best; nonrepresentative at worst.

I found some of the pull-out stats confusing, too:

“Only 20% systematically disclosed this as advertising” whilst also “40% of the checked influencers made the disclosure visible during the entire commercial communication.”

Also, as far as I’m aware influencers are not mandated to use the platform disclosure features i.e. Instagram’s “paid partnership” - rather they need only ensure their adverts are obviously identifiable as adverts.

Still, much work to be done. The work will be swifter if practitioners can work alongside regulators to better understand the details behind the issues to protect consumers from online harms. 

There is an irony that an initiative designed to make influencers more transparent to their audiences is not so transparent with the details of their findings.

Fashion house taps virtual influencers to re-explain realness

Global fashion house Coach has launched a new campaign which uses virtual influencers to explore shifting notions of what it means to be human. 

"Find Your Courage," features virtual influencer, imma and Coach Family Lil Nas X, Camila Mendes, Youngji Lee, Kōki, and Wu Jinyan. 

Set in a virtual universe, the campaign introduces the Coach Spring collection within a story about finding the courage to discover what it means to be real in your own way.

What makes it noteworthy? the campaign takes place between physical and virtual worlds, blurring the lines along the way. 

The campaign is inspired by the way today's younger generations are redefining what it means to be "real" through the lens of many concepts of self—and the courage it takes to navigate and embrace the complex layers of identity -- all with the assistance of a synthetic human. 

Keeping kids safe with KOSA

After months of negotiations, a bill called the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) has gained more than 60 backers in the U.S. Senate, clearing a path for it to become the most significant attempt in decades to regulate tech companies [Washington Post]. 

The bill would impose new obligations on digital platforms to protect children online, including requiring that companies “exercise reasonable care” to prevent their products from endangering kids.

The Senate's passage of the bill could put pressure on the House to follow suit. However, the bill still faces an unclear path to becoming law due to disputes between the two chambers over which tech issues to prioritise.

New study shows “a trigger-heavy approach to governance” by platforms

I’ve long been concerned about the way some social media platforms deal with ‘flagged content’ and the motives behind malicious flagging. 

It’s an area which, no doubt, will become more acute as the Online Safety Act takes force. I wrote last September about the potential “tsunami of creator complaints coming down the pike from influencers up-in-arms about automatic takedowns of their content by Instagram and other platforms”.

My fears are shared in a new academic article which finds social media platforms display a trigger-heavy approach to governance with their content flagging policies. 

Bad actors are maliciously flagging creator content as part of personal or moral crusades against the posting creators.

Author, Dr Carolina Are, a Postdoctoral researcher focusing on platform governance, notes “facilitation of flagging loopholes, an inadequate appeals system and an approach to user safety which is cavalier at best, and careless at worst.”

Dr Are contends that flagging has been weaponised highlighting “the exploitable loopholes Instagram and TikTok’s flagging affordances provide to malicious actors.”

Flagging’s influence on moderation remains opaque argues Dr Are. Users who flag are largely unaware of the success of their reports; those who are de-platformed cannot be sure if or why their content has been reported, making them feel targeted not just by platforms’ processes, but by the retaliation of audiences themselves.

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