While the US and UK have their own modes of regulating sponsored content online (typically, paid-for content must be declared and visibly so), the digital landscape in the Middle East generally remains a free-for-all for paid social media influencers. Well, until the UAE government decided to adopt new measures that will warrant it illegal to post paid-for content on social media without holding an accredited license. This will come into play as soon as this summer. #AboutTime springs to mind. You may have noticed that your Instagram feed is perpetually filled up with accounts operating in the gray area of selling, say, a lip gloss, perhaps masked as their “favorite go-to product.” You’re not alone in searching for the “unfollow” button if the content doesn’t chime as authentic.
Related Read: The top 10 most influential Arab women in social media
In a world saturated with advertising, social media is no longer the final frontier of untainted space. Ironically, the advent of the blogger originally came about in a new democratic cry for the digital community to platform “real people” who post “authentic” content without money coming into the equation. Alas, it did. And now it needs regulation, says the UAE government. While making money is not inherently a negative thing, the need for economic rules that establish and regulate the playing field for businesses and brands to capture the attention of the market is required, or so the thinking goes — not only for transparency and the respect of the reader/customer but also for the sake of quality control. Here, Vogue.me explores the news of the UAE influencer license and muses on how it will raise the bar.
The 101 on the UAE Government’s New Media Initiative
You will soon need a license to be a social media influencer in the UAE. The UAE’s National Media Council (NMC) has set forth a new law that any social media influencer making money from promoting anything from vacations to makeup products will need to secure a media license, something which is already required of magazines and other publications. Organizations that already have a publishing license will not be affected. The move aims to regulate and professionalize the industry, the NMC said in a statement this week.
Why It’s Come Into Force
Mansour Ibrahim Al Mansouri, NMC director general, explains: “The new regulations are part of the council’s plan to promote and develop an advanced legislative and regulatory environment for the UAE media sector.”
Social media is a lucrative business for many influencers, who can rake in hundreds to thousands of dirhams per post. Last year, Hopper HQ compiled the first-ever Instagram Rich List, to see exactly who is making the most money from their posts, using a mixture of internal data and publicly available information*. Topping the list was the UAE’s very own Huda Kattan, aka Huda Beauty, who reportedly earns up to AED 71,000 (nearly US $20,000) for a single post shared with her 24.7 million followers.
What Happens Next
Any social media influencer will need to register for a license by the end of June, or face fines up to AED 5,000, a written or verbal warning, and the closure of their accounts or website.
How the UAE is Pioneering its Digital/Economic Future
During a news conference in Abu Dhabi, Al Mansouri said that the new guidelines aim to create “balanced and responsible media content that respects the privacy of individuals, and protects the public – especially children – from negative or harmful material.” He added, “The regulations seek to help the UAE media sector remain on top of the rapid developments in electronic media, in addition to enriching and organizing digital content, and ensuring that media material respects the religious, cultural, and social values of the UAE, all the while promoting freedom of expression and constructive dialogue.”