The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently published a guide and a series of videos explaining how bloggers should flag content as sponsored to “stay on the right side of the law.” The new initiative of the regulatory body is designed to reduce the amount of fraudulent content and help influencers comply with requirements.
In a document called Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers, FTC cites cases where such disclosure is necessary and provides examples of effective and ineffective annotations.
The new document includes the Endorsement Guides, as well as a selection of questions and answers released by the FTC in 2017.
In general, bloggers should consider labeling content as sponsored if they are engaged with the brand either through financial or family relationships. Moreover, such disclosures should be clearly visible and noticeable to users.
However, the actual value of the recommendations is doubtful, to say the least. The experts note that the text of the guidelines contains the same advice and ideas originally discussed in 2009.
Moreover, over the past ten years, the regulator’s attempts to enforce influencer violations related to the disclosures proved to be futile. A couple of years ago, the FTC sent some warning letters to web celebrities, but that decisive move appeared to be a one-time exercise.
These new guidelines will hardly help bring the industry to discipline. Technically, they are just recommendations, which means that they won’t be treated as binding and mostly ignored.
Meanwhile, the videos featuring FTC staff attorney Amber Lee are even less insightful. She repeats several times some obvious things like how it is necessary to stay on the right side of the law and label paid content as sponsored.
Such a half-hearted approach makes people believe that the regulator will approach enforcing influencer ad violations with little enthusiasm. No wonder influencers are in no hurry to implement the guidelines. A recent report revealed over 80% of influencers in the UAE don’t disclose their sponsorships and the question of ethics in sponsored posts and promotions will also be discussed at the upcoming influencer awards.