Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 29 September 2020

UAE influencers need government approval to promote health products online

All medicine and pharmaceutical-related ads must be authorised by the Ministry of Health before they are posted

Social media influencers will need permission from health authorities to post health-related ads. Courtesy: EPA    
Social media influencers will need permission from health authorities to post health-related ads. Courtesy: EPA    

Social media influencers in the UAE will need to obtain permission from the Ministry of Health before posting paid advertisements that promote medicines, pharmaceuticals or health-related products.

The new set of rules were announced by the National Media Council (NMC) in a circular that was issued on Wednesday.

Influencers who promote any kind of paid content were also reminded that they must have a licence from the NMC.

“A prior approval from the Ministry of Health must be obtained on advertisements related to medicines, pharmaceutical products and any health related products,” the circular said.

“The ad must be true and not exaggerated. It must not lead to confusion in any way. The advertisement must not include false or misleading claims and anything that indicates suspicion, fraud and misleading.”

Influencers are also required to write that the content is an advertisement on top of the post and in a way that is visible to the audience. It should not be hidden between hashtags or be typed in a font that is difficult to read.

The social media industry in the UAE is becoming increasingly regulated, with licensing measures for paid social media influencers introduced in 2018.

Failing to obtain a licence could include fines of Dh5,000, warnings and/or closure of the influencer's social media account.

Dr Hala Hussein, a general practitioner, said that the new requirement is an “important step” taken by authorities, as it will help prevent spread of false information related to health.

“Influencers are not doctors. It’s not their job to give health advice,” she told The National.

“Health-related ads need to be heavily monitored, especially during the times of a pandemic.”

Dr Hala Hussein, a general practitioner, has welcomed restrictions on the posting of health-related posts. Courtesy: Dr Hussein 
Dr Hala Hussein, a general practitioner, has welcomed restrictions on the posting of health-related posts. Courtesy: Dr Hussein 

“Nearly every day I receive forwarded WhatsApp messages on miracle cures or medicines that can prevent coronavirus and these can be very dangerous. If people were to fall for these ads, they could face medical issues.

Lavina Israni, a Dubai-based influencer who posts about food, films and travel, said that she has turned down health-related ads from companies before, as she wants to leave medical advice to doctors and professionals.

She said she rejected a company that was paying her to post about products for a weight-loss programme.

Lavina Israni, a Dubai-based influencer, said medical advice should be left to the experts. Courtesy: Ms Israni
Lavina Israni, a Dubai-based influencer, said medical advice should be left to the experts. Courtesy: Ms Israni

“Most influencers are certainly not in the position to promote health-related products on their Instagram page, as not all of them are qualified to understand the repercussions and side effects of these products,” said Ms Israni.

“Any health-related product should be bought and consumed upon a doctor’s advice. However, if you would still like to believe your favourite Instagram influencer’s recommendation, it would be beneficial if the ministry steps in and monitors the campaign from start to end.”

Updated: September 10, 2020 06:57 PM

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