Italy tightens control on social media influencer advertising

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

© RossHelen / Getty
© RossHelen / Getty

Related tags Regulation Social media

Italy has introduced new advertising guidelines for social media influencers which will see the most influential online celebs regulated by the same authority as mass media outlets.

AGCOM (the Italian Authority for Communication Guarantees), which has traditionally regulated the mass communications and multimedia services, announced the new ‘Guidelines on Influencers’ earlier this month, aimed at guaranteeing compliance by influencers with the provisions of the consolidated law on audiovisual media services

The rules address influencers operating in Italy who reach at least one million followers on their various platforms and have exceeded an average engagement rate of 2% or more on at least one platform or social media.

The guidelines concern commercial communications, the protection of fundamental human rights, safety of minors and the values of sport, providing a mechanism for the authority to give warnings, orders to remove or adapt content and issue hefty fines.

“Italy is identifying influencers as having a bigger responsibility than in the past, placing them more in the category of traditional media outlets,” said Luca Bucchini, managing director at Rome-based regulatory consultancy Hylobates Consulting, and Chair of ESSNA (European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance).

He explained that the country previously had a self-policing advertising standards body called IAP which had made some rules for online influencer advertising and another competition authority, AGCM, had “done some work in applying some rules and trying to convince influencers to be better”.

“The problem with these initiatives was the authorities’ legal powers were weak," he said. "There was a realisation that enforcement was low and slow and this wasn’t enough.This body which regulates TV has now stepped in and they will have more power to enforce these laws.”

In the case of content with product placement, influencers are required to display an inscription highlighting the advertising nature of the content in a readily and immediately recognizable manner. 

Discussing the significance of this update for the health and nutrition industry, Bucchini added: “Social media influencers are regularly promoting health and nutrition and supplements, especially to younger consumers so influencers are extremely important to the industry. 

"Many younger consumers will get their information about what is and isn’t healthy via social media, and misinformation is a big issue.”

Regarding the potential implication for other member states, Bucchini noted that he sees stronger regulation being enforced across Europe.

“I think we will see more member states treating influencers with a big following as similar to mass media outlets,” he said.

In March 2023, the French consumer affairs and fraud control watchdog clamped down on online influencers​, stating it would be able to issue fines of up to €300,000 and prison-sentences of up to two years after discovering the majority do not comply with regulations.

And in October, the European Commission announced​ that it would step up scrutiny of influencer business practices and activities, stating digital content creators would need to "follow fair commercial practices, and their followers are entitled to transparent and reliable information."


Follow us


View more