Disclosure of social media influencers remains rare.
Travel social media influencers continue to rake in large amounts of money for promoting certain companies to their followers. Despite the Federal Trade Commission being very clear that social media influencers must let viewers know when a post is a paid advertisement, disclosure remains rare in the industry.
Travelers United has taken on the lack of disclosures in social media posts as a policy issue and we are committed to seeing transparency in the industry. Consumers should be able to make an informed travel decision based on genuine recommendations of the people they follow online. If a post or recommendation is an advertisement, this would impact the consumer’s buying decision.
Some social media influencers embellish their credentials.
In 2022, Travelers United sued an influencer for failure to disclose that she was posting advertisements and for making false statements about her personal accomplishments. The deceptive statements about personal accomplishments directly relates to the sales of goods, as she likely did this to get more social media followers to in turn get bigger brand deals. That case remains ongoing, but on September 13, 2023, the judge stated that the case can move forward. The order states, “An influencer who misrepresents her background or omits relevant information to induce a consumer to purchase goods can be found to have misled the consumer in violation of the CPPA, particularly where, as here, the influencer’s statements about herself are inextricably linked to her promotion of her products.”
Travelers United lawsuits against social media influencers have created a legal precedent.
Travelers United is proud to have made it clear that DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) allows for influencers to be sued for lack of disclosure and for false statements in their posts. This is an important precedent on disclosures in social media.
To be clear, both the influencer and the company that pays the influencer to post are responsible.
Both social media influencers and the company that pays them are responsible for ensuring statements are correct and compliant with the law.
- If an influencer is British and lives in Bali but has his posts viewable to consumers in the United States, he is subject to the laws of the United States.
- When an influencer gets a free stay at a hotel but she does not disclose it in every single social media post she makes about the hotel, she is violating the law.
- If there is a material connection between the subject of the advertisement (a hotel) and an influencer, it must be disclosed in every single post.
- This disclosure is required not just for static posts but also for disappearing stories on Instagram or Snapchat.
- Video on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or TikTok also need full disclosure, preferably by both voice and in a written disclosure.
Influencers must learn social media law.
Travelers United urges influencers in the travel space to familiarize themselves with the requirements of advertising disclosure in the United States. The FTC has a video for influencers about the laws. Travelers United covered the requirements of disclosure in a post in 2021. Unfortunately, there have been multiple articles recently about how the FTC could do more about enforcing influencer guidelines, but they are severely understaffed, so influencers are often flouting the law. As the FTC is understaffed, nonprofits can step in according to DC law to act “on behalf of the general public.” That is exactly what Travelers United intends to do moving forward on the issue of travel influencers ignoring disclosure requirements.
Influencers, follow the law and disclose when making a paid social media post, or we will see you in court.
Lauren joined Travelers United in 2015. Founded Kill Resort Fees, the only site devoted to ending hidden hotel resort fees. Armed with an arsenal of frequent flyer miles and some extreme budgeting skills, Lauren traveled around the world through 37 countries. Accomplishments include eating at the world’s largest restaurant in Syria, bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border, running into Anthony Bourdain at a Mexican restaurant in Cambodia and cage diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa.