FTC Social Media Actions

Since 2011, the FTC has resolved at least 13 investigations involving social media influencer marketing. In seven of these cases, the FTC entered into consent orders with the companies, with two cases targeting the company’s marketing agency, and another targeting two of the company’s owners. Each case resolution required compliance and monitoring from the companies but none required any payment of money to consumers. In the other five cases, the FTC elected not to bring charges against the companies after its investigations.

In April 2017, the FTC sent more than 90 educational letters to social media influencers and marketers concerning their legal disclosure obligations. Subsequently, in September 2017, the FTC sent warning letters to 21 of these social media influencers. To date, no FTC action has been taken directly against an influencer, who has not been an agent and/or employee of the marketer.

Target/Year  Platform Issue Outcome

 Hyundai Motor America

(Nov. 2011)

Blog Gift certificates were given to bloggers to encourage them to link to and comment on Hyundai videos and upcoming Super Bowl ads. Some bloggers did not disclose that they had received the certificates. No action

 Nordstrom Rack

(Feb. 2013)

Twitter For its “TweetUp” campaign, Nordstrom Rack gave gifts to influencers for attending a store opening. Some influencers who posted about the opening did not disclose that they had received gifts. No action

Cole Haan

(Mar. 2014)

Pinterest For its #Wandering Sole campaign on Pinterest, Cole Haan incentivized consumers to post pictures of its products by entering them in a $1,000 shopping spree contest without requiring proper disclosure of the contest. No action

 ADT

(June 2014)

Blog ADT endorsers represented themselves as independent reviewers while promoting ADT on talks shows, websites, and blog posts without disclosing that they were compensated by the company. Consent order

Deutsch LA

(Mar. 2015)

Twitter Marketing agency for Sony, Deutsch LA, urged its employees to promote Sony’s PlayStation Vita on Twitter without instructing them to disclose their relationship with their client. Consent order

 Microsoft

(May 2015)

Twitter Microsoft’s Nokia provided a free trip to Boston, a Lumia phone, and other incentives to influencers who tweeted about the phone’s photographic capabilities. A majority of influencers did not adequately disclosure their material connection to the company. No action

 Machinima

(Mar. 2016)

YouTube Machinima paid influencers to post YouTube videos endorsing Microsoft’s Xbox One system and several games. The influencers failed to adequately disclose that they were being paid for their seemingly objective opinions. Consent order

 Lord & Taylor

(May 2016)

Instagram Lord & Taylor retained 50 fashion influencers to post Instagram pictures of themselves wearing a dress from a new collection, but failed to require the influencers to disclose that they received the dress for free, as well as payment in some instances. Consent order
 Warner Brothers

(Nov. 2016)

YouTube & Twitter Warner Brothers’ influencer marketing campaign for the video game, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, failed to adequately disclose that it paid the influencers thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and other social media platforms. Consent order

 Various companies and influencers

(Apr. 2017)

Instagram After reviewing numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes, and other influencers, FTC sent more than 90 letters reminding influencers and marketers that influencers must clearly and conspicuously disclose their material connection to brands on social media. Educational Letters

 CSGO Lotto, Martin & Cassell

(Sept. 2017)

Youtube

Twitter

Twitch

Facebook

Instagram

Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Thomas “Syndicate” Cassell, two social media influencers who are widely followed in the online gaming community, failed to disclose that they jointly owned the gambling service CSGO Lotto when endorsing the company. They also paid other influencers to promote the site without requiring them to disclose their material connection. Consent Order

 Various influencers

(Sept. 2017)

Instagram The FTC sent warning letters to 21 social media influencers that it had previously contacted regarding disclosure issues on their Instagram posts. The influencers have until Sept. 30, 2017 to inform the FTC whether or not they have a material connection to the brand and if they do, what steps they have taken to clearly and conspicuously disclose that connection. Warning Letters

 Creaxion Corp., Pettit, Inside Publications, LLC of Georgia, & Korotky

(2018)

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Advertorials in online and print publications

Online Reviews

Two Olympic gold medalists who were paid spokespeople for FIT Organic Mosquito Repellent failed to disclose that they were paid thousands of dollars to promote the product. Online consumer reviews did not disclose that reviewers were reimbursed for buying the product or had a relationship with the company promoting the product. Consent Order
Artist Liquid Labs, Humble Juice Co., Hyde City Vapors, and Solace Vapor

(2019)

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

The FTC and FDA sent warning letters to four companies that failed to include statements warning consumers of the health and safety risks associated with nicotine in social media posts advertising flavored e-liquid products. The letters also reminded the companies that social media posts must clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections between influencers and brands. Warning Letters

Updated 6/12/19

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