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Mind your hashtag: Instagram Influencers overstepping boundaries

(BUSINESS NEWS)Instagram Influencers above transparency of corporate sponsorship?

instagram influencers

A whole new world

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising and the key rule is, “Under the law, claims in advertisements must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence-based. For some specialized products or services, additional rules may apply.”

The internet has opened a whole new world of marketing, and the FTC is having a hard time keeping up. Influencers are changing the way companies market online.

Case in point, Instagram influencers who are getting paid for product placement ads. We reported in April, “Instagram influencers see few repercussions for sneaky ads; crackdown’s coming.” The FTC requires that paid posts must clearly be marked as an ad.

Some hashtaggers are forgetting to do this or burying the information deep in the list of hashtags, believing they’ve met the letter of the law, while ignoring the spirit of the law.

Real talk

Recently, a coalition comprised of Public Citizen, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Center for Digital Democracy, sent a report to the FTC identifying that the influencers who were warned earlier this year are still in violation of the law.

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Influencers are not disclosing that the posts are sponsored content.

The FTC has not commented on the report except to say that they are reviewing it.

The coalition believes that their research is just a small picture of a larger issue. In another study, from Mediakix, “93 percent of the sponsored posts of celebrities are not disclosed.” Mediakix only studied 50 of the top followed celebrities on Instagram, which probably included Jennifer Lopez, with more than 67 million followers. The reach of these celebrities is significant, and their audiences deserve disclosure.

A simple request?

The coalition asks the FTC to hold influencers responsible. Personally, I wonder if the FTC has the resources to monitor Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and deal with all of the other issues it’s responsible for. Consumers do have a right to know when a post is being sponsored, but I don’t think we can rely on the government to monitor the situation or we’re going to end up with more regulations.

Not to mention that these “influencers” are often little more than bratty children (see below if you want your blood to boil):

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With great power comes great responsibility

Businesses need to make sure their marketing agency and influencers are following the law. Influencers need to know the law and follow it. Social media sites need to make it easier for users to identify what is sponsored and what isn’t.

This problem isn’t going to go away unless we work together. And I’m pretty sure that is a pipe dream.


Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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