The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the United States is studying the possibility of modifying its powers to be able to act against “false positive reviews or manipulation of reviews by deleting bad ones“.
It was the government body itself that issued a statement indicating new guidelines that will affect both stores and social media platforms that host reviews, such as YouTube and Instagram, as it is stated that their tools are not robust enough to ensure proper disclosure paid content, and could expose them to potential liability.
“We are updating guidelines to crack down on fake reviews and other forms of deceptive marketing, and warning marketers about devious ads that target children,” said Samuel Levine, director of the Office of Consumer Protection of the FTC.
“Whether it’s fake reviews or influencers hiding they’ve been paid to post them, this kind of deception makes people pay more for bad products and services, and hurts honest competitors.”
A revision to the guidelines would now include influencers and streamers. One example is YouTuber PewDiePie, who in 2014 came under fire for not revealing he was paid by Warner Bros. to speak positively about the game in order to post positive impressions of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. This led to the FTC settling with Warner Bros, which prohibited them from disclosing similar paid content. This was one of the first cases that set the tone for influencer marketing in the United States.
Laws in the UK are much stricter, with steep fines for influencers who post content they’ve been paid to do without saying they’ve been paid for it. Contrary to what happens in most territories, it is not enough to place a hashtag in the description indicating that the video is sponsored, but rather creators must verbally disclose that the content has been paid for by a third party at the beginning of the video.