The Government should have a closer oversight over social media influencers to ensure the content they share is inline with the value and ethics of the UAE, members of the Federal National Council debated on Tuesday.
Members voiced their concerns over the unregulated use of endorsed products and services, and how most influencers do not reveal whether or not they are getting paid to endorse products and services.
Distinguishing between regular shared content and paid content was made mandatory by a new electronic media regulation system that was launched by the National Media Council on Feb 28. The new system also made it mandatory for paid social media influencers and bloggers to acquire a license before the end of June. Penalties for failing to do so include fines up to Dh5,000, a verbal or official warning, and/or closure of the website or account.
However, according to Ras Al Khaimah member Naama Al Sharhan, the new regulations are not enough.
“It has not been activated yet in a way for people to understand that when you are getting paid to endorse a product, you must say so. What if I go use the face cream you were pretending to be using and my skin gets irritated?”
Moreover, there needs to be a comprehensive deterrent law that oversees influencers’ activities in general, not only their paid activities, she said.
“When I open Instagram and I see an obscene scene, I think of the young people who are viewing it too.”
“We don’t want people promoting nonsense, like when a fashionista posts footage of herself lying down… what is this?” she continued.
“The values that were instilled by our grandparents are being diminished by those jobless people who call themselves influencers, what are they influencing exactly? So what is the NMC’s plan to stem the negative impact of social media?” she asked Dr Sultan Al Jaber, chairman of the National Media Council.
“This is a true concern. We don’t want to call it a challenge, but an opportunity,” said Dr Al Jaber. “After the new e-licence was launched, there were a number of workshops and meetings with influencers.”
He said the majority of influencers had a positive impact on society, but the rest "I don’t want to call them negative, they are just not aware.”
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He also said the new system has opened doors for the Government to deliver their message to those influencers who did not know how to "deliver the message in the desired way ... And we hope there will be tangible improvements".
Dubai member Hamad Al Rahoomi said everyday content shared by influencers does not need to be monitored by the government, “we are not controlling people’s lives.” However, influencers should have personal governance over their posts, they should not be posting destructive content just for the sake of gathering more followers.
“You are being followed by one hundred thousand people, and those include children, so you should be socially responsible. We don’t want the world to be filled with jokers.
“[Influencers'] messages should be positive and ethical, the more followers [they] have the more ethically responsible [they] should be."