Regulation of social media advertising

The Irish Times has published my letter on the need for regulation of social media advertising:

A chara, – Chris Connolly is, in a narrow, legalistic, sense correct when he lists regulation of social media advertising as a “risk” for sponsors (Business, January 16th, Business). The most striking lesson from his piece, however, is the great risk, at the societal level, if we do not have such regulations.

The tips Connolly provides for advertising done “right” – subtlety, avoiding “blatant” or “contrived” sales pitches – make it clear that what is envisaged is advertising that is not clearly identified as such, surreptitiously furthering the interests of sponsors and sports figures, at the expense of unsuspecting marks.

In broadcasting, we have particular concerns about advertising aimed at children because young children are unable to clearly distinguish between advertising and other content, because parents are not able to effectively moderate children’s viewing on a sufficiently granular basis, and because television, in particular, is seen as persuasive by virtue of the relationships children build with the characters they view. All these concerns also apply to social media. Given the focus in Chris Connolly’s piece on sports figures, who are so often held up as role models for children, standards that protect young fans seem appropriate.

More generally, a lack of transparency by sports figures about their connections to products and services they promote seems sleazy and unethical. Surely we can expect better? – Is mise,

 

Dr ANDREW Ó BAOILL,

Assistant Professor of

Communication Studies,

Division of Humanities

Natural Sciences,

Cazenovia College,

Sullivan Street,

Cazenovia, New York, US.

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