UAE issues guidelines for sponsored social media posts

The new guidelines cover all paid advertising with 19 content standards, and changes mean an end to adverts for brunch drink promotions and anything that promotes smoking or could offend "public morality"

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New regulations banning the use of terms  such as “hops” and “grapes” in promotional content are among a host of guidelines issued by the National Media Council on Monday, governing all types of advertising.

For the first time, the guidelines also include paid-for content on social media, along with conventional print and online advertising.

Under the new regulations, social media influencers must abide by a strict set of rules when posting sponsored content online. Any form of direct or indirect advertising of alcohol and tobacco is banned, as well as the use of words or images that could offend public morality.

Previously, only traditional advertising channels, such as TV, radio and print, were covered under the guidelines that were released in 2011.

“The rapid growth of the global media sector has seen the advertising sector in the UAE play an ever-increasing role in driving the economy,” said Dr Rashid Al Nuaimi, executive director for Media Affairs at NMC.

The new rules include a comprehensive set of 19 content standards, which will end adverts with brunch promotions that reference to “hops” and “grapes”, and prohibit adverts that promote smoking of "all kinds and methods”.

In addition, the content must refrain from offending God and Islamic beliefs and show respect for other religions, as well as the UAE’s systems, policies and its relations with other countries.

Adverts must also show respect for the UAE Government, political institutions, culture and the heritage of the country, as well as avoid harming national unity or social cohesion.

Images or words that could offend “public morality” must also be avoided, according to the regulations, and adverts must refrain from hurting the UAE's economic system by spreading rumours or misleading news.

Adverts for “witchcraft, sorcery and astrology” will also not be tolerated, among other conditions.

Prior approval must be sought from the concerned authorities for adverts that relate to health, education or real estate.

The new guide also includes a set of special conditions for social media, which say that all adverts must be clearly identified.

Adverts must be clear and borders must be placed between the advert and any other content. They should be labelled as “advertisement material” or something similar to identify them, according to the guide.

Hashtags like #advertisement or #paid_ad must not be accompanied by too many other hashtags as they make them harder to see. Also, disclosure should generally be made at the beginning of the content, among a list of other requirements.

Although these are guidelines, as opposed to law, infringements will be subject to an initial fine of Dh5,000. If not paid within five working days, a fine of Dh100 a day will be imposed up to a maximum additional charge of Dh5,000. If the same offence is repeated within a year, the fine will be doubled and capped at Dh20,000.

Any adverts on social media listing charitable and voluntary activities provided for free are exempt from licensing, as are adverts that are carried for free.

The launch of the new advertising guide follows a warning last week from Dubai's retail regulator, Dubai Consumer Protection, to be wary of allowing purchasing habits instigated by influencers, who may have no information on the products they are promoting.

Since the summer, influencers are required to have a licence from the NMC to post paid-for content .

“One-hundred-and-fifty licences have been issued to companies that cover as many as 900 accounts on different social media platforms because the licenses can have multiple accounts,” said Dr Al Nuaimi.


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“And the number of social media influencers who have been granted licences is around 650.”

No e-media licence holders have been suspended so far, but influencers who post paid-for content without a licence have been contacted by the NMC to ask them to obtain one.

“We have a dedicated team for this and they monitor the accounts that are already registered and the accounts that haven’t registered yet,” said Dr Al Nuaimi.

NMC representatives spoke about a recent case involving an advert by the telecommunications company Du that was broadcast in the cinema at the advertising guide launch event. It was taken down within 24 hours, they said. No further details were given.

Here is the full list of Advertising content standards:

  • Refrain from offending God and Islamic beliefs, and show respect for other heavenly religions
  • Show respect for the UAE Government and its emblems and political institutions
  • Show respect for the cultural heritage of the State
  • Avoid harming national unity and social cohesion, and provoking sectarian, doctrinal and trial strife
  • Refrain from harming the economic system in the UAE and spreading rumours and misleading news
  • Show respect for the UAE's policies to promote its national identity
  • Avoid disseminating information that harms or abuses children and women, or any other social groups, or incites hatred and violence
  • Avoid publishing images or words that could violate public morality
  • Any advertising for witchcraft, sorcery or astrology shall not be allowed
  • Respect intellectual property rights
  • Comply with codes of conduct and standards of honesty, including compliance with the rules governing business, especially in regards to consumer protection and fair competition controls, prohibition of commercial fraud and illegal monopoly
  • Advertising for alcoholic beverages or narcotics is not permitted in any form, whether directly or indirectly
  • Tobacco advertising, smoking of all kinds and methods of using them, or any other services or products that are prohibited from advertising, shall not be permitted
  • Comply with the rules of health advertisements contained in Cabinet Resolution No. 4 of 2007 and its amendments on health advertisements
  • Avoid publishing advertisements that contain false, malicious, and misleading information
  • Respect the national identity of the UAE
  • Observe the conditions and terms concerning the use of the flag, emblem and national anthem of the UAE
  • Obtain the prior approval of the concerned authorities for advertisements requiring prior approvals, such as those related to health, education, real estate, Hajj and Umrah campaigns and others


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