UAE introduces media licensing norms for commercial bloggers

“The new law is very fair as, earlier, people used to step into social media just for the money and not for the storytelling, which made all platforms difficult to filter.” - Content creator Lowi Sahi
Sunday 23/09/2018

DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates’ National Media Council’s new licensing norms for paid social media bloggers and influencers have been in place since June, affecting social media accounts conducting activities of a commercial nature

“The government wishes to ensure that media outlets, including those that operate commercially online and in social media, are complying with the various content regulations that are in force in the UAE,” said Fiona Robertson, senior associate — technology media and telecommunications, with law firm Al Tamimi and Company.

She said the National Media Council (NMC) created three categories of influencer licences — an individual licence for independent influencers; a partnership licence for small groups of friends or family who can set up a company together; and one for practitioners to sign up with official influencer agencies certified by the NMC.

“The issue of licensing did overshadow the overall necessity to comply with the content regulations and I do think that we cannot emphasise this aspect enough,” Robertson said. “Those who operate commercially as online content publishers should not make assumptions about their ability to post any and all content. There is a fine line between content that is edgy and content that is illegal.”

Feras Arafe, managing director of Influencers.ae, the region’s first data-driven influencer marketing platform, said: “Influencer marketing has a funny love-hate relationship in the industry. There’s something of a negative stigma around influencers but there’s no getting away from the fact that brands can’t seem to get enough of them.”

The number of influencers skyrocketed from 800 to more than 3,000 in two years and is set to get bigger, Arafe said.

“We believe the industry is still very much in its early days and has plenty of different paths to go down before it morphs into its mature shape,” he said. “This particular law has actually done a lot of good in that it has slowed down the growth of the ‘everyone’s an influencer’ phase — something which was for a while completely spinning out of control.”

“The new regulations have provided a framework to ensure real content creators didn’t have to compete with ‘selfie posers’ looking for a few freebies in return for minimal effort and a handful of artfully taken photos.”

Content creator Lowi Sahi, whose innovative storytelling has attracted a big audience, said he welcomed the move. “It makes sense that any type of business you do should be official and visible to the government that’s providing you indirectly the tools to practise that business,” he said.

“The new law,” Sahi said, “is very fair as, earlier, people used to step into social media just for the money and not for the storytelling, which made all platforms difficult to filter.”

Mariam Saadyeh’s social media activity is a solo practice of 1-minute makeup tutorials, tips and tricks and different looks. Her page is a mini vlog for those looking for ideas on how to apply their makeup and how to mix and match different colours and products.

“Honestly, having the licence didn’t really make a difference to me,” she said. “Those (who are) blogging for the sake of sharing their opinions or seeking feedback can still continue to do so.”

Saadyeh said the social media influencer world “has kind of gotten out of hand” and she said she understands it needs to be controlled.

However, she stressed that “if a blogger truly started blogging for the sake of sharing information and knowledge, they should not mind not being endorsed as long as they’re contributing to the community.”

Injeel Moti, founder and editor of the Beauty Blog ME, has been blogging for more than four years with various notable beauty, fashion, health and wellness brands. Apart from the blog, she operates a communications consultancy in Dubai.

“Given that I already had a licence set up for my company, I did not require to get an additional licence and thus was able to carry out activity on the blog front as usual,” Moti said.

“I think the law was much needed in the UAE market. It has definitely helped regulate the industry and led to a lot more transparency when negotiating collaborations and campaigns with influencers.”

Luanne D’Souza, on the other hand, is still an independent blogger. She said: “Currently, I am still active. I am taking my time deciding on what my plan should be. I have a full-time job, so social media is just a hobby for now.”

She said she understood the logic behind the law, because “social media have a huge effect on our everyday lives and influencers should be posting responsibly.”

“I think transparency in social media is fantastic but I just wish it was accessible to influencers of all incomes,” she said.

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