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EU targets online influencers’ growing power

EU targets online influencers’ growing power

by host

Beware the power of the people making funny videos online.

Influencers are playing an increasingly important role in shaping opinions — especially among young people — and should be getting government guidance, the Belgian government is arguing, in a discussion paper circulated to other governments in the Council of the European Union.

Social media influencers should get help in how they engage with their audience on cyberbullying, mental health challenges, hate speech and disinformation, said the document obtained by POLITICO. It even suggested that governments create an “ethical code or ethical label” for influencers.

The paper is trying to tackle the messy, often unchecked impact of social influencers on society. Self-described misogynist Andrew Tate is one online content creator considered directly responsible for fueling a wave of toxic masculinity and sexual harassment against girls in U.K. schools.

And just last month, misleading advertising by Italy’s celebrity Chiara Ferragni sparked a political row over a fake charity campaign with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni responding with a new transparency law.

Belgium, which is currently chairing the EU Council coordinating European governments’ policy positions, wants countries to ensure influencers are well aware of — and comply with — EU and national rules.

But it also sees a need to support creators, who are often young and inexperienced, by offering them training in communicating with the public.

“At the moment, there is a gap in support to enhance the cognitive and ethical skills of influencers,” the Belgian document reads. They should “understand the impact they could have on their followers by disclosing it in an accessible and comprehensible way.”

As a first step, the Belgian Council presidency is planning a February 27 conference called “Content with Conscience” to discuss “responsible” influencing with influencers and experts.

Other governments have also sought to control the impact of influencers. French lawmakers called for the European executive to crack down on social media influencers flogging risky products and services such as cryptocurrencies or cosmetic surgery.

The European Commission previously said it is evaluating whether additional rules are needed to govern influencers’ commercial practices.

Hannah Roberts contributed reporting.

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