Insta Scam

Sara Liu, Writer

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Instagram has captured the attention of over a billion monthly users, not only feeding personal images but also creating a viable platform for mass advertising.  

Their existence has created a problem for the everyday consumer, revealing a power abuse that companies, celebrities and online influencers show on a regular basis.

Whether it is irresponsibly promoting products with a harmful message or simply ignoring government guidelines, the responsibility of recognizing and vetting advertisements has overwhelmingly fallen on the consumer.

Wellness brands, in particular, run rampant on platforms like Instagram. Companies such as Flat Tummy Co or Sugar Bear Hair rely on Instagram’s 200 million monthly advertisements (AdWeek) or spending millions on influencer endorsements (, to spread the gospel of questionable appetite suppressants and shiny hair, often at the expense of the consumer. For example, these supplements are not monitored by the FDA and could have users unknowingly interfering with other vitamins, said Dr. Alka Gupta for Allure, who specializes in internal medicine.

Meanwhile, celebrities advertising products like Flat Tummy Co’s appetite suppressing lollipops are spreading a harmful message to their large audiences whether they know it or not.

Reality star Kim Kardashian was met with immediate backlash over her support for the product, with many protesting the message of needing to control hunger, which some said was a trigger for eating disorders. In a time where celebrities influence everything from diet trends to who to vote for, a need for awareness of one’s own audience has become imperative.

One of the main jobs of the Federal Trade Commission is to protect the consumer, and when it comes to upholding that mission, the FTC still has a ways to go. According to the FTC’s “Dotcom Disclosures,” its official guide to online advertising, it states that  “Required disclosures must be clear and conspicuous. In evaluating whether a disclosure is likely to be clear and conspicuous, advertisers should consider its placement in the ad and its proximity to the relevant claim.”

While the “Dotcom Disclosures” offer suggestions as to what constitutes an appropriate ad disclosure, like the hashtags #spon or #ad, it offers no concrete rules or consequences for insufficient disclosures, causing influencers to push the bounds as to what is allowed.

Furthermore, the last official “Dotcom Disclosure” was published in 2013. Over the past five years, the online landscape has changed dramatically. With social media spaces evolving daily, it has become more imperative than ever to fix the guidelines to reflect the times.

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