Australia bans use of influencers in government campaigns after 'offensive' posts

The Australian government has banned the use of influencers from all federal government campaigns after a series of embarrassing exposés involving taxpayer-funded social media stars.

Alen Catak (right): The YouTuber otherwise known as Champ promoted the Air Force
Alen Catak (right): The YouTuber otherwise known as Champ promoted the Air Force

The government was forced to review influencer marketing after talent fronting government campaigns were found to also promote alcohol brands and diet pills, and had made rape jokes and homophobic remarks, on social media.

"The government has recently reviewed the use of social media influencers and determined that they will not be used in future campaigns," assistant minister for finance David Coleman told Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph.

The issue highlights the importance of a thorough vetting process to ensure talent aligns with an organisation’s values.

Pressure had mounted on the government for weeks after revelations showed the Health Department exercised poor due diligence in spending $600,000 (£350,000) on influencers in the past 18 months.

Instagram stars were paid thousands to front the 'Girls Make You Move' campaign, an Australian version of Sport England's 'This Girl Can'.

Some influencers that were paid to promote a healthy active lifestyle by the government were also promoting alcohol brands and "performance enhancing" supplements, such as weight-loss pills, to their followers.

Health minister Greg Hunt found the Instagram posts "offensive" and ordered a review.

The Australian Defence Force was also rapped for spending $52,500 (£30,000) on YouTube gaming stars Alen Catak, aka Champ, and Elliott Watkins, to promote the Air Force to teenagers.

The department was slammed by defence minister Marise Payne after it emerged Catak has previously made rape jokes online, called women "sluts" and "whores", and used homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs.

Watkins had previously laughed at references to rape and used flippant references to "cancer" in his videos.

A version of this article first appeared on PRWeek