Social media influencers should be treated as businesses, say lawyers
Social influencers in the UAE should be regulated and have a legal framework within which to operate, legal experts said at this week’s ITP Live conference
Conceding the practical difficulties of enforcing UAE laws on influencers from outside the region with followers based here, panellists Diana Hamade, Founder of International Advocate Legal Services and Clyde & Co Partner, Dino Wilkinson were in agreement that regional influencers should be regulated.
When social influencers are paid to post promotional content about brands, both the advertising nature of the content and the income should be declared and be subject to the same taxes as other businesses, they said.
“A single-person business is still a business,” Hamade clarified, adding that their earning money from endorsements or content qualifies as a business operation.
Wilkinson told the audience of communications professionals and influencers that “social media influencers do not operate in a vacuum, they have to comply with the laws of the land. Businesses need to have a licence, they need to be regulated, and this applies to influencers as well.”
Hamade pointed out that so far, the UAE does not have specific social media laws, but there other laws that affect his business model, such as social and cybercrime laws. While she agreed that the region’s social media influencers do need to be subject to more operating regulations, she cautioned against over-regulating, “I think that is stifling,” she said.
The confusion comes when international influencers are based outside of the region, but have a significant presence and influence on those living here, the experts said. Regardless of how the legal framework plays out, “if you are targeting the population here, you better know the law in Dubai” warned Hamade, and continued by advising influencers to consult a specialist lawyer that is versed in social media about the do’s and don’ts of their work.
Wilkinson ended the session by commenting that while the UAE authorities would need to look at how they can enforce regulations on social media influencers, other government departments, such as the Ministry of Health for example, have already demonstrated that they take marketing claims and advertising of health products very seriously, and influencers should therefore not underestimate the issue of enforcement.