Italy regulator tightens rules on influencers after Ferragni scandal

Rome: Italy’s communications authority AGCOM has approved stringent new rules to improve transparency on social media posts made by celebrities with mass online audiences.

The decision comes after top influencer Chiara Ferragni — with nearly 30 million followers on Instagram — was handed a fine of over 1 million euros ($1.10 million) by Italy’s antitrust agency over the lack of clarity in a Christmas charity initiative.

The rules will initially be applied to those influencers posting in Italian and working with Italian brands who have more than 1 million followers, AGCOM said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Any advertising content posted will need to be clearly labelled as such in order to be recognisable, otherwise the social media stars risk fines of up to 600,000 euros.

Owing to their massive reach, online influencers can often exercise more power than traditional advertising in boosting product sales and increasing brand exposure.

France introduced legislation last year to outlaw the promotion by influencers of products such as tobacco and to ensure greater transparency on paid content.

The Italian authority added that influencers will be required to respect the code of conduct applied to all media outlets, which requires impartial communication, avoiding fake news and discriminatory or racist posts.

AGCOM has been working on the new rules for over a year and did not target Ferragni specifically, head Giacomo Lasorella told daily la Repubblica in an interview published on Thursday.

He said that at the moment the attention would be on “the big fish” but that he expected influencers with a smaller following to “follow a virtuous path” too.