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ASA to regulate internet adverts

Companies who advertise on the internet will face stricter rules and regulations from next month.

Until now, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has only been able to monitor traditional advertising found on billboards, in newspapers or on television.

But from March 1, its powers will extend to regulating commercial websites and businesses who promote their products using social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Under the change, internet users will be able to make official objections about any indecent or misleading information they find online.

The ASA has spent a year preparing for the reform, and is expanding staff numbers by 10% to deal with the extra complaints it expects.

"The principle that ads have to be legal, decent, honest and truthful is now going to extend to companies claims on their own websites," Matt Wilson, of the ASA told the BBC.

Both adverts and claims on a company's website which could be interpreted as marketing will be policed by the authority.

Last year, 2,500 people complained about website content, but under the old rules their objections were not admissible.