Sept. 14, 2017
Public Citizen’s FOIA Leads FTC to Name Celebrities Warned Over Paid Instagram Posts
Statement of Kristen Strader, Campaign Coordinator, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert
Note: In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Public Citizen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released the names of social media influencers to whom the agency sent warning letters related to their Instagram posts. The FTC letters informed Instagram influencers identified by Public Citizen as potentially deceiving consumers – including Amber Rose and Lindsay Lohan – that they must clearly disclose their relationships to brands and companies when promoting or endorsing products through social media platforms. The agency also requested that the influencers explain how they will properly disclose paid relationships with brands moving forward. The letters marked the first time that FTC staff has sent warnings to individual social media influencers.
View Public Citizen’s June 2017 letter and investigation (PDF) to the FTC demanding stronger action on paid Instagram posts. View the petitions Public Citizen and partner organizations filed in 2016 demanding the commission take action on the proliferation of undisclosed paid ads on platforms like Instagram.
“The FTC’s effort to protect consumers from deceptive advertising on Instagram through warning letters is a welcome step, but it does not address the rampant deception on social media that is only growing. Undisclosed paid posts on Instagram for products like alcohol, cosmetics and clothing have become a regular part of using the platform, which is dominated by young and impressionable users.
Until the FTC takes enforcement action against companies that facilitate influencer marketing, or influencers who post undisclosed ads, the culture around influencer marketing on social media will remain as it is – accepted consumer deception on behalf of profit-driven companies, without consequences.
We will continue to monitor influencer behavior on Instagram and report violations to the FTC to encourage enforcement action when appropriate.”