#SCOTLAND THE FREEBIE … Los Angeles-based social media influencers enjoy five-star freebie trips to Scotland paid for by taxpayers … But do Twitter, YouTube and Instagram posts breach ASA and FTC advertising rules?

AMERICAN social media stars were given Government-funded, all expense paid trips to Scotland in exchange for gushing online reviews.
Four online ‘influencers’ were gifted the freebie visits and put up in five-star accommodation across the country.
But the Twitter, Instagram and YouTube posts they published were not marked as advertising, in a likely breach of US Federal Trade Commission laws.
Mary Engle, head of the FTC’s advertising practices division, said: “Under FTC law, advertising should be identifiable as advertising, in whatever medium it appears.
“This means a social media post that’s a promotional message rather than an independent opinion should be clearly presented as such, for example through a prominent disclosure that it is sponsored advertising.
“We issued guidance for advertisers and endorsers outlining when, why and how they must disclose their relationship so that consumers are not misled into thinking that sponsored posts are independent.”
The Scottish Government spent about £17,000 on the three trips which were promoted using #MyScotStory on their own website and across social media, which also fails to identify the reviews as advertising.
The trips were taken by Los Angeles-based food blogger Jo Stougaard, ‘online power couple‘ Mark Miller and Ethan Hethcote, and ‘lifestyle vlogger‘ Lindsey Hughes.
They stayed in upmarket hotels including the Balmoral in Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Blythswood.
And they were treated to exclusive meals and entertainment during the visits, which lasted between five and 10 days.
Hughes was sent to TRNSMT music festival during her summer stay.
The government also paid planning fees of £1232 per trip to Edinburgh-based creative agency Whitespace, described as their ‘digital agency on the international portfolio’.
The Advertising Standards Authority say they are powerless to regulate the three social media influencers as they are all based in the United States.
But following this investigation, they have launched a probe into the Scottish Government’s own online posts, which are subject to UK advertising rules.
Government accounts on YouTube and Twitter promoted the trips but did not state that the write-ups were effectively a form of advertising.
An ASA spokesman said: “The social media posts by influencers based abroad, paid for by the Scottish Government, would likely fall outside our remit.
“We don’t have jurisdiction over an American citizen’s posts, particularly where they are not targeted at UK consumers. But if the Scottish Government were to adopt/incorporate the posts into their marketing, then they could potentially become advertising that falls under our rules.
“We would then consider, in terms of content and context of the posts, whether they were obviously identifiable as ads.”
On Thursday (March 15), the ASA launched a project exploring people’s ability to recognise online ads and how they are labelled.
They are seeking evidence to establish how social media users can be duped by celebrities not declaring their commercial incentive for plugging products or services.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Social influencer and native advertising might be relatively new but the advertising rules haven’t changed – people shouldn’t have to play the detective to work out if they’re being advertised to.
“That means the status of a tweet, blog, vlog, Instagram post or story should be clear. Our call for evidence will play an important part in helping us understand how consumers recognise and respond to online labelling of ads and how we apply the rules in this area.”
Secretary for Culture and Tourism Fiona Hyslop has been challenged to explain the decision to use taxpayers’ cash.
Labour’s tourism spokeswoman Claire Baker MSP said: “It is highly embarrassing the Scottish Government have been caught using backdoor ads, masquerading as reviews.
“With some of the best and most beautiful scenery and attractions around the world, Scotland sells itself. There is no need for a strategy that may leave holidaymakers feeling duped.
“The ASA must fully investigate these posts and see if the Scottish Government have broken any rules. The Culture and Tourism Secretary must be clear about the extent of her knowledge of these decisions.
“We should be engaging with the millions of real tourists that travel to Scotland every year, not giving expensive freebies to people based on the number of followers they have on social media.”
Tory shadow culture secretary Rachael Hamilton added: “If there are concerns about the rules and regulations of advertising standards, the Scottish Government should thoroughly investigate these before setting aside more investment.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said they had “no control over the content posted”.
She added: “Encouraging more people to live, work, study, visit and invest in Scotland is crucial to our economic growth.
“Social media influencers have a huge role to play and this partnership between the Scottish Government and three influencers was conducted in line with up-to-date guidance at that time.”
Stougaard, Miller, Hethcote and Hughes did not respond to our requests for a comment.

Lindsey Hughes has 407,000 YouTube subscribers, 252,000 Twitter followers and 397,000 on Instagram.
Her five-day visit came with a total bill of almost £3000 – £484 on accommodation, £55 on activities, flights at £1596.37, £424.80 on meals and £247.81 on transport.
She travelled to Dundee as well as staying at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh and boutique Hotel Indigo in Glasgow.
Lindsey attended the TRNSMT music festival in Glasgow but was unable to post video footage because her camera batteries went flat.
Mark Miller and Ethan Heathcote have a Twitter following of 189,000, while Miller’s YouTube channel has almost 673,000 subscribers.
Their seven-day holiday cost taxpayers about £2500 but it’s thought some services were provided free of charge.
They stayed at Cameron House resort on Loch Lomond, Glasgow’s Blythswood Hotel and Prestonfield House in Edinburgh.
They also visited the Edinburgh HQ of flight search website Skyscanner, where they took part in a Scottish quiz viewed more than 5,000 times on YouTube.
Los Angeles-based blogger Jo Stougaard has 202,000 followers on Twitter.
Her 10-day trip came with an £800 accommodation bill and taxpayers paid a further £1290 for transport, meals and activities.
During her stay she had fine dining experiences at The Three Chimneys on Skye and Cecina and Number One in Edinburgh. She stayed at Dunked House Hotel in Perthshire and the G&V Royal Mile Hotel and Balmoral in Edinburgh.
It is believed some parts of her trip were provided free by hotels and restaurants in exchange for positive online coverage.


We uncovered details and costs of the trip with a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government.
The initial response failed to give the requested financial breakdown of how taxpayers’ money had been spent. This was only released after an appeal was lodged.
Natalya Ratner, of the government’s international marketing team, said: “The itineraries were matched to the personal, ancestral and professional interests of the influencers and covered a number of regions from Scottish Borders to the Isle of Skye, introducing them to a range of people, enterprises, institutions and businesses.
“The purpose of this activity was to allow the influencers to document their personal experience of what it is like to live, work, study, visit and invest in Scotland and promote it with their followers on their social media channels. The reach achieve through this activity was over eight million people.

A version of this report was first published in the Sunday Mail on March 18, 2018


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If you believe this pile of claptrap, well, you are a lost cause lol!!
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Secrets of the Freemasons finally revealed after TV crew gets rare access to mysterious Grand Lodge “The Grand Lodge has grabbed the opportunity to dispel myths and show they are just “ordinary folk” – and say they have nothing to do with an Illuminati”




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2 thoughts on “Watch – BBC 2 Documentary – THE SECRETS OF THE MASONS”

  1. And I was not wearing my hip boots. Damn! Yeah, they are such sweet souls. Innocent as lambs. and disgusting liars, too. They will no doubt play a big part in the “alien” UFO invasion and the revealing of a messiah and a supposed new golden age. Complete liars pulling off a con. Don’t believe them!

    Liked by 1 person

the worst is still to come still do a bit of praying it will all be ok eh

Archbishop of Canterbury ‘ashamed’ of Church over abuse

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vaz …game on

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Labour MP Keith Vaz appearing at an event with Bollywood actor Shatrughan Sinha in London earlier this month

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