Instagram Is Censoring Vape Speech

Photo: Nam Y. Huh (AP)

Instagram announced on Wednesday that it will begin enforcing bans on influencers promoting “goods such as vaping, tobacco products and weapons” in branded posts.

Instagram’s owner Facebook has long prohibited brands from directly purchasing ads for these kinds of products, but a loophole existed in that paid promotions by influencers were not subject to the same rules. That meant brands could hand over money to get them to promote things they couldn’t, like guns or vapes.

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The announcement means that influencers will lose that potentially lucrative workaround, with Instagram writing that enforcement would begin “in the coming weeks.” This is the first time the company has set “boundaries for influencer sponsored content,” according to Axios. 

In the same post, however, Instagram announced that it was rolling out more tools for power users to directly collaborate with advertisers and share analytics on campaigns. As CNN noted, this along with the June rollout of a feature that allows brands to turn paid promotions into official Instagram ads appear to be part of an Instagram strategy to get a cut of influencers’ income—which has historically been negotiated directly between Instagram celebrities and advertisers off platform.

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Instagram’s move comes as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a UK advertising industry group that establishes guidelines for corporations based there, banned four e-cigarette firms from promoting vaping products on public Instagram pages. One of the manufacturers had argued that it was only providing factual information about vaping, according to the Guardian, but the ASA ruled its celebrity-filled Instagram posts “clearly went beyond the provision of factual information and was promotional in nature.”

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post