21 Jul 2018

Aus Govt to review use of Instagram influencers

6:46 pm on 21 July 2018

Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered his department to stop paying Instagram influencers to encourage young women to exercise more.

woman sitting on window sill with smart phone

woman sitting on window sill with smart phone Photo: 123RF

A report by The Daily Telegraph revealed the Health Department had spent more than $600,000 in taxpayer funds on the #girlsmakeyourmove social media campaign over the past 18 months.

"At my request, the department is pausing and reviewing any use of influencers," Mr Hunt said.

"There would need to be a demonstrated benefit and demonstrated suitability of any individual going forward, for this to recommence.

"This would need to include a thorough assessment and vetting process linked to improving the health of Australians."

The social media campaign was part of a broader Health Department initiative developed to "address the lower level of physical activity and barriers faced by young Australian women".

According to the campaign website, Girls Make Your Move was inspired by Sport England's This Girl Can initiative, which successfully encouraged millions of women to be more active.

Girls Make Your Move also teamed up with organisations including the Women's Rugby League World Cup and a number of fitness companies offering free trial gym memberships to young women.

Labor senator Murray Watt said he was pleased to see Mr Hunt's decision.

"I think that all taxpayers would think there are better ways to see taxpayer funds used than paying social media influencers hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost their Instagram likes," he said.

"I have an issue with the department having spent taxpayers' money in this way in the first place. But if they're going to do it, they need to be a lot more careful about the kind of people that they promote.

"We want to have our Australian Government backing mainstream attitudes that the community can support, not those kind of attitudes that are condemning other people."

The social media spend included paying a number of Instagrammers for posts encouraging their followers to get involved in activities like kickboxing, yoga, surfing, roller derby and rock climbing.

But some of those involved in the campaign have had their level of "influence" questioned and previous controversial conduct brought back into the spotlight.

While many of the accounts promoting the Health Department initiative have up to hundreds of thousands of followers, The Daily Telegraph pointed to a report by data analysis firm Lumio that found many accounts were not "valuable" from an advertising perspective.

Several of the influencers working with the campaign have also used their accounts to endorse drinking, often in partnership with alcohol brands, and one has been forced to apologise for using racist language and homophobic slurs.

Mr Hunt on Friday called for an "immediate review of the use of these influencers".

A spokesperson for Mr Hunt said the minister "did not endorse" the Girls Make Your Move Instagram posts and "found them offensive".

The marketing agency responsible for the campaign no longer has the Government advertising contract.

Influencer apologises to followers for past behaviour

One of the most popular influencers involved in the Girls Make Your Move campaign was Lily May Mac, who has more than 3 million Instagram followers.

The 24-year-old was forced to make a public apology last year for tweets she sent in the past using racist language and homophobic slurs, which she described as her "distasteful sense of humour".

After she was contacted by the ABC on Friday morning, she told her Instagram followers again that the behaviour was behind her.

"I just wanted to make it clear that that person is not me anymore. I was young and ignorant, really stupid and dumb. It was super hateful," she said.

"All I can ask for is your forgiveness and another chance."