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Social Media Mental Health Influencer Marketing

Gleam Futures lobbies UK gov over ‘scary’ AI filters and bans them from roster

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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

June 21, 2023 | 7 min read

Dentsu-backed influencer agency Gleam Futures is pleading with legislators to strengthen legislation around the use of beauty filters.

Gleam manifesto commits its influencers to a set of socially responsible standards

Gleam manifesto commits its influencers to a set of socially responsible standards / Pexels

Ahead of a review of the British government’s online safety bill, Gleam Futures managing director Melanie Kentish has demanded that beauty filters be labeled as ‘harmful content’ and the bill to legislate that a #filtered is added to all influencer accounts.

As a mum of two young daughters and having suffered from eating disorders herself, Kentish knows first first-hand the harm social media can cause to young girls’ mental and physical health. “Teenagers don't see a screen. It’s the world that they live in. There is no differentiation between online and offline and that is really scary,” Kentish says. “It’s incredibly damaging if they are comparing themselves to something that is artificially masked to hide the way they truly look.”

Kentish is meeting with Conservative MP Dr Luke Evans, who first proposed the inclusion of filter disclosures in the safety bill. “We are lobbying government,” Kentish says. “The government needs to act decisively or face a worsening mental health crisis. We need to create a safer digital space for future generations to come.”

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Gleam is asking for the government to bring the UK’s standards in line with Norway, where creators must label retouched photos, as well as France, which is demanding video labeling.

The agency is particularly concerned about the rise in “scary” AI beauty filters like Face Tune, Perfect 365 and the viral Bold Glamour which has had a worrying 1bn views since March. “Anything where it’s fundamentally very hard to distinguish where it has been changed, that is where the danger lies,” Kentish explains.

On Friday (June 16), Ogilvy announced it would disclose when it was using AI-generated influencers and urged policy change for the rest of the industry to follow suit. Kentish says it’s a “step in the right direction”, but she believes the danger doesn’t lie with AI influencers but with human influencers using AI to change their appearance.

“It’s really dangerous when influencers who have long-term established communities are altering the way that they look because there's a certain level of trust there that exists that just doesn't with an AI-created influencer,” Kentish says.

“AI is continuing to accelerate at pace, and it doesn’t feel that the government and tech platforms aren’t keeping up with what we need to do to keep users safe,” Kentish says.

The Gleam manifesto

In a bid to establish industry standards for responsible influencer accounts the agency has drafted the Gleam Manifesto. The manifesto asks existing Gleam talent not to post any content that promotes distorted or misleading beauty standards and requires newly-signed talent to agree to the standards.

“We have a responsibility to the creators on our roster, but also to all their followers. It’s important to us as an industry that we are acting responsibly and encouraging creators not to use filters or to disclose the same way they do for adverts,” Kentish says.

To encourage other non-Gleam influencers to stop using filters the agency has tasked Dentsu Creative UK to create an influencer-facing campaign rolling out today (June 22) online and out of home.

Last year, Ogilvy UK said it would no longer work with influencers who distort or retouch their bodies or faces for brand campaigns. Gleam’s proposals are slightly different in that all influencers on its roster will be banned from using filters or will have to disclose if they do.

It makes Gleam the first influencer management company to publicly declare its standards and commit its talent to sign up. “We’re hoping that this will really set an industry standard and actually, it can become something much bigger than kind of lives and breathes with Gleam,” Kentish says. “We are hoping other management companies will follow suit.”

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In the long run, Gleam is planning for the manifesto to beyond just filters and set a precedent for how influencers can be accountable for their behavior online. “It’s the first of many steps,“ she says.

“We understand it’s not an overnight change that can happen. But in terms of any future talent that we were to represent, it would very much form part of the framework that will be looking to recruit talent,” she concludes.

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