New Instagram Influencer Warning Letters

Following up on the more than 90 educational letters FTC staff sent to social media influencers and brands in April of this year, the staff has sent warning letters to 21 of the influencers previously contacted. The earlier educational letters informed the influencers that if they are endorsing a brand and have a “material connection” to the marketer, this must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless the connection is already clear from the context of the endorsement.

The warning letters cite specific social media posts of concern to staff and provide details on why they may not be in compliance with the FTC Act as explained in the Commission’s Endorsement Guides. For example, some of the letters point out that tagging a brand in an Instagram picture is an endorsement of the brand and requires an appropriate disclosure.

The letters ask that the recipients advise FTC staff as to whether they have material connections to the brands in the identified posts, and if so, what actions they will be taking to ensure that all of their social media posts endorsing brands and businesses with which they have material connections clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships. The FTC is not disclosing the names of the 21 influencers who received the warning letters.

Updated Guidance to Influencers and Marketers

The Commission today also issued an updated version of The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People are Asking, a staff guidance document that answers frequently asked questions. Previously revised in 2015, the newly updated version includes more than 20 additional questions and answers addressing specific questions social media influencers and marketers may have about whether and how to disclose material connections in their posts.

The new information covers a range of topics, including tags in pictures, Instagram disclosures, Snapchat disclosures, obligations of foreign influencers, disclosure of free travel, whether a disclosure must be at the beginning of a post, and the adequacy of various disclosures like “#ambassador.”

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