The European Commission on October 2 published a study that identifies unfair and manipulative advertising and marketing practices on social media. The findings show that consumers are not always aware about how social media targets them for marketing purposes.

Specifically, 30% of the participants surveyed were unaware of the commercial nature of native advertising (paid ads in an online publication which resemble the publication’s editorial content).

Another finding is that two-thirds of consumers are usually misled by a common practice on Facebook, which consists of showing “likes” from their friends next to other products than those that they had actually “liked”.

“This study brings evidence for concerns we already had about social media advertising,” said Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “Some of the techniques used are unfair and manipulative and we would simply not allow them in the offline world. I will bring this case to the attention of national consumer authorities who will see whether coordinated EU level action is necessary.

“Offline or online, companies must not unfairly trick consumers. They need to fully respect EU consumer rules,” she added.