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FTC investigates "fake and manipulated" reviews by influencers and social media

22.05.2022 159

The U.S. FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a U.S. federal agency responsible for overseeing the fairness of market practices, has decided to investigate reviews by influencers and entrusted them to social media, to prevent the spread of "false and manipulated" reviews that may reach the public.

This is not the first time that the issue has been analyzed by the federal body: back in 2019, the booklet Disclosures 101 for Social Media influencers was drafted, containing precise instructions for streamers and influencers, to indicate ways to make public promotional and commercial relationships with companies, concerning the placement of products within video content or reviews.

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However, this guidance will have to be updated and made less lax, it seems, as the FTC plans to prevent "hidden advertising" and "false and manipulated reviews" that can result from the misuse of company-streamer partnerships on products.

On the other hand, the "Endorsement Guides" governing partnerships of this kind were drawn up in 2009, which is a far cry from today, when one considers how social media has evolved in the meantime and how relevant influencers have become in recent years.

The FTC has therefore decided to propose new guidelines that "reflect the importance attached to social media and product reviews through it by manufacturers."

The new regulations affect not only influencers but also the platforms themselves on which they act, i.e., the companies that control social media. In particular, it becomes crucial to avoid phenomena of surreptitious advertising and "microtargeting," with promotional features aimed at specific target audiences. A particular concern, in this regard, has also been expressed about advertisements aimed at children.

The concern stems from the relationship of trust that is established between audiences and certain influencers, whereby they become a very powerful promotional tool that companies can exploit. On the latter falls much of the responsibility for making sure that the official partnership, sponsorship, and endorsement relationships between producer and influencer are duly made public and explained to the public.


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