France has become the first country in Europe to regulate influencer marketing on social media, in a bid to protect consumers from possible fraud or scams.
A new law, passed unanimously by both the National Assembly and the Senate, threatens online content creators with fines of up to 300,000 euros ($330,000) and jail terms of up to two years for promoting dangerous or fraudulent products or services.
The law prohibits influencers from endorsing cosmetic surgery, sports betting, and financial products like cryptocurrencies, which have been linked to some of the most common and costly scams.
Influencers will also have to label all paid content and disclose any filters or edits they use on their images or videos.
The law also applies existing French advertising laws to online content creators, such as adding health warnings for products like sodas or processed food.
The law was championed by a group of French legislators who said they wanted to respond urgently to the challenge posed by the influencer economy, which involves people leveraging their reputation to endorse products or services in exchange for money.
“The law was passed in record time and unanimously, which shows how much support it had in both government and parliament. There was a clear understanding of the need to urgently respond to the challenge at hand,” said Stéphane Vojetta, one of the lawmakers behind the bill.
He said the law was dedicated to the victims of scams, who have suffered financial losses, health risks, or even psychological distress.
“People got divorced, lost their housing, their job, fell into depression,” said a spokesperson for the AVI Collective, an association set up to help the victims of influencers.
Some of the victims were lured by influencers into buying fake products or services, such as miracle cancer cures, dietary supplements that claimed to kill cancer cells, or online courses that never materialized.
Others were duped by influencers into investing in cryptocurrency schemes or entrusting them with their funds.
“It’s a public health issue,” said Audrey, a mother of two children who set up an Instagram account to expose misleading and illegal practices by influencers.
“When you’re ill, you want to believe that something exists that can save you from heavy treatment – or death. When people stop their cancer treatment thinking that a food supplement can cure them, it could be too late.”
But calling out influencers is not easy. Some of them have millions of followers who trust them and may not be aware of their commercial interests or motives.
– Influencers in firing line as France tackles scams, BBC News, 17 June 2023
– France finalizes law to regulate influencers: From labels on filtered images to bans on promoting cosmetic surgery, El País, 19 May 2023
– France has approved a law that targets influencers. What does it mean for social media stars? MSN, 5 June 2023
– Social Media Targeted in EU Consumer Group Complaint About Crypto Ads, MSN, 8 June 2023