UK restricts memes about crypto, other investments to combat scams

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Britain’s financial services regulator announced guidelines for financial services companies and social media influencers making memes about cryptocurrencies and other investments in a bid to tackle a rise in scams.

The Financial Conduct Authority said in a statement Tuesday that any marketing for financial products — including those expressed in memes — should be fair, clear, and not misleading.

The watchdog said that financial social media influencers, or “finfluencers,” must have the approval of an FCA-appointed representative before publishing advertisements and memes about financial products and services, the FCA said.

“Promotions aren’t just about the likes, they’re about the law. We will take action against those touting financial products illegally,” Lucy Castledine, director of consumer investments at the FCA, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Social media will not always be the best place to promote complex products. Firms need to consider whether a platform that offers limited characters or space is the right place to do so.”

The FCA said that, in 2022, it took down over 10,000 misleading adverts about financial services.

Promotional crypto memes

The regulator said the use of memes in promotions is particularly prevalent in the cryptocurrency industry.

Crypto memes are especially prevalent on Telegram, a popular platform with digital currency enthusiasts. Reddit is another place where crypto is widely discussed.

The FCA said it has seen promotions using memes to hype up certain investments on chatrooms such as Reddit and Telegram.

Users of chatrooms and forums should be aware that financial promotions on those channels will still be subject to its rules, the FCA said.

The move is part of the FCA’s bid to clamp down on the rise in financial scams. Scams rose sharply during the Covid-19 pandemic as more consumers turned to online platforms for their banking and investment needs.

The FCA has become especially aggressive on crypto advertising. In October 2023, the FCA started to require that firms wishing to promote consumer crypto investing in the U.K. be authorized or registered with the regulator, or have their marketing approved by an authorized firm.

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