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Regulating Promotions on Social Media

  • 21 Jan 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Social Media, Endorsement Guidelines, Consumer Protection Act, Cybersecurity, Hate Speech, Fake Advertisement, Data Privacy.

For Mains: Extent of Social Media in India, Challenges Related to Social Media.

Why in News?

The Centre has released endorsement guidelines for celebrities and social media influencers that mandates compulsory disclosure of monetary or material benefits of a product or a brand they are promoting through their social media platforms.

What is the New Guideline for Enforcement on Social Media?

  • Disclosure Norms:
    • Disclosures must be prominently and clearly displayed in the endorsement and terms such as ‘advertisement’, ‘sponsored’ or ‘paid promotion’ should be used for all sorts of endorsements.
    • It aims to ensure that individuals do not mislead their audiences through unfair trading practices when endorsing products or services and that they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and any associated rules or guidelines.
    • Disclosures should not be mixed with a group of hashtags or links. Also, in the case of a live stream, disclosures should be displayed continuously and prominently during the entire stream on social media.
  • Penalty:
    • If there are any violations, the penalty prescribed for misleading advertisements under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 will be applicable.
    • In that case, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) can impose a penalty of up to ₹ 10 lakh on manufacturers, advertisers and endorsers and for repeated offences, a penalty of up to ₹ 50 lakh can be imposed.
    • The CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from making any endorsement for up to one year and for subsequent contravention, prohibition can extend up to three years.

What is the Extent of Consumption of Social Media in India?

  • Extent of Social Media in India:
    • According to the Global Statistics, in India, the number of social media users is growing at a steady rate of 467 million in 2022 due to deep penetration of internet connectivity among people.
      • Also, overall the number of Internet users in India has grown to a whopping 658 million, which is roughly 47% of the total population of India.
  • Benefits of Social Media:
    • Democratization of Information: Social media is allowing the democratization of knowledge and broader communication. Billions of netizens around the world now feel empowered to bypass traditional curators of information.
      • They have also become creators and disseminators of content, not just consumers of it.
    • Direct Interaction with Government: Today social media has empowered common people to directly interact with the government and avail government services directly.
      • Common people tagging Railway and other ministries and the agencies responding to them is common news these days.
    • Promote Creativity and Self-expression: Social media provides a platform for users to share their ideas, thoughts, and creativity with the world.
    • Increased Customer Engagement: Social media allows businesses to engage with their customers in a way that was not possible before, allowing for more personalized and effective customer service.
      • Social media is a cost-effective way for businesses to market and advertise their products and services.
  • Challenges Related to Social Media:
    • Misleading Advertising: Social media platforms are often used to advertise products and services, but some businesses use misleading or false advertising, which is an unfair trading practice.
      • Social media platforms are also used to post product reviews by influencers, but some reviews may be fake or biased, which can be misleading to consumers and also a violation of fair-trading practices.
    • Cyberbullying and harassment: Social media has become a breeding ground for cyberbullying and harassment, leading to mental health issues and even suicide in some cases.
    • Privacy Concerns: Social media platforms collect and store large amounts of personal data, raising concerns about privacy and data security.
    • Lack of Regulation and Polarisation: Social media platforms operate with little regulation, which can lead to harmful content, fake news, and hate speech.
      • Also, social media can create an echo chamber effect where people are exposed to similar views and opinions, causing polarization in society.

Way Forward

  • Social Awareness: A digitally literate country is the need of the hour. Responsible social media use must be taught at every school and college in the country and especially in the rural areas where people can be easily manipulated.
  • Stricter Content Moderation: Social media companies will need to implement stricter content moderation policies and more robust systems for identifying and removing harmful content.
    • This would help in reducing the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and other harmful content on their platforms.
  • A Dedicated Social Media Policy: A holistic policy to regulate social media by creating accountability of social media platforms to not target youth as consumers or future consumers.
    • This will make the algorithms more attuned towards adults rather than youth.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question:

Q. What are social networking sites and what security implications do these sites present? (2013)


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