Social media sites could be regulated by the advertising watchdog if an industry body succeeds in closing the loophole around non-paid-for marketing.

If recommendations from the Advertising Association, outlined this week, are agreed by the Committee of Advertising Practice, complaints against non-paid-for marketing on sites will be investigated in the same way as TV ads are.

Last year, 2,000 complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority about company websites, including Facebook pages, but the regulator was unable to follow any up because it didn't have the remit to.

Under the new proposals, that would change. "If a child were to go on to a brand's website and play an online game that showed branding or messages, then the recommendations say the game content would now be classed as marketing communication and come under the ASA's remit," said AA chief operating office Rae Burdon.

Although ads on Facebook are already covered by regulations, brands' own non-paid pages would be classed as marketing, he added.

However, editorial on company websites that was distinct from marketing communication would be protected from regulation. Advertising body ISBA said there was already a firm view among advertisers that if something looked and felt like an ad, it should be regulated like an ad.

The extended remit is expected to come into force during the third quarter of 2010, following a consultation and formal ratification by CAP and the ASA.

If the extended online code got the go-ahead then the ASA would have enhanced IT and extra people in place to deal with the additional complaints, said Burdon.

A racy ad for SSL International's Durex Play O gel featuring facial expressions of women at the height of sexual pleasure has been cleared by the ASA, which said it was not overtly graphic.