UK advertising watchdog classifies crypto ads as ‘red alert’

Amid the United Kingdom taking a tougher regulatory stance on the cryptocurrency industry, a major local advertising industry organization has announced a crackdown on crypto ads.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the U.K.’s independent advertising regulator, plans to launch a major effort this month to hunt and shut down misleading crypto adverts, the Financial Times reported Friday.

Miles Lockwood, ASA’s director of complaints, said that the authority would particularly target irresponsible crypto ads shown online and on social media platforms, adding:

“We see this as an absolutely crucial and priority area for us. Where we do find problems, we will crack down hard and fast.”

Lockwood elaborated that the ASA has identified crypto ads as a “red alert” priority over financial adverts. As such, the regulator is now increasing its capacity to track suspect ads online using technology like scraping and artificial intelligence. The ASA is also working with big tech platforms to get scam adverts taken down as part of a separate effort. The authority also plans to issue warnings and may require players to include disclaimers in their advertisements.

“We do recognize that there are some types of media that we haven’t been able to address fully until now,” said Louise Maroney, who leads financial complaints for the ASA.

Related: UK regulator warns against 111 unregistered crypto companies… and FOMO

According to the report, the ASA has renewed its efforts to supervise crypto ads because most crypto investments fall outside the scope of the U.K.’s strict rules for promoting traditional financial products. This year, the authority has been paying more attention to ads in the crypto industry, taking down some adverts by crypto exchanges, such as Coinfloor.

Despite the ASA’s increased attention to the crypto ad industry, the U.K.’s major financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), does not believe that crypto investment is mostly driven by ads. “Only a minority of people buy digital coins based on advertising, but those who do so tend to have worse outcomes,” the FCA wrote in its crypto consumer research released in mid-June.