UK advertising watchdog to police ads on social sites, backed by Google

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Online marketing is now so mainstream and so prevalent that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has finally – after about 15 years – decided to step in and start subjecting online advertising to the same regulations as ads that appear on TV, in newspapers or other media. The new rules will target ads that sell products. But the big news is they will also regulate ads on social media services. This will of course also mean advertisers may have to police what customers are writing on their Facebook pages. The rules will even encompass YouTube videos where ordinary people are asked to pimp a product.

Good luck with tracking that one.

It will clearly cost more to do this but Google is staying on the right side of the regulator by contributing £200,000. There will also be an extension of the 0.1% voluntary levy on paid-for advertisements across all media which has so far funded the ASA to date. According to the ASA, Google “pondered for a while” before agreeing to sign up to the system.

The ASA says the extension to online has the “protection of children and consumers at its heart” and is largely in response to a doubling of complaints, to over 4,500, which it has received about online ads, until now an area it could not legally deal with. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which writes the regulations, extended its powers after formal recommendation from the UK media industry.

The new rules come into effect on 1 March next year. The ASA already regulates paid-for adverts online but will now be able to demand the removal of paid-for links to pages hosting an ad it has banned and place its own online ads shaming an advertiser for non compliance.

That means if you are running a social network in the UK and you fall foul of the ASA, prepare for some humiliation on the ASA website (though this may of course play well to some kinds of marketing).

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