Social networks. Should the government regulate the business of influencers?

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has made it his “top priority”: controlling influencers was at the heart of a round table in Bercy this Thursday. Lack of transparency, defective or illegal products, conflicts of interest, dropshipping… For several months now, the CEO has been concerned about the sometimes questionable actions of these stars of social networks. Case Magali Berdah-Booba and a program Further Investigation raised awareness.

As a proof of this, Magali Berdah, the pope of the sector, was not invited to the meeting on Thursday. On the other hand, there were agents of influencers, social networks (including YouTube and Tiktok), organizations representing the world of communication, as well as representatives of the state, from tax authorities to anti-fraud. regulatory authorities of gambling and financial markets.

The Ministry of Economy said that this first meeting intended to clean up the land should lead to “very specific proposals in the spring”. Consumer protection, taxation framework, professional development… The stakes are high and the subjects are many.

Very profitable partnerships

Especially when you know that the influencer marketing market, which consists of brands paying influencers to promote their products, was over $13 billion last year. The influence of influencers is considerable today: According to an Omnibus study conducted last March, more than half of 18-24-year-olds have already purchased a product or service after a product placement.

Which didn’t always end well. In social networks, the AVI collective (help for victims of influencers) and the account “Your Stars in Reality’ continues to warn about influencer businesses ranging from a lack of information to fraud, deceptive, unfair or prohibited commercial practices. According to the latest report by ARPP, the Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority still finds that 17% of paid affiliates are not transparent enough.

For now, the regulation of the sector in France is mainly based on voluntary obligations, such as the “Certificate of Responsible Impact” from the ARPP or The Society of Public Relations Consultants’ (SCRP) “Influencer Relations Charter.” What could soon change: the experiences of those affected in Bercy’s visor are also the subject of a bill by deputy ecologist Aurélien Tache.

Current regulations

This text aims to “create a legal basis for the activity of influencers in social networks”. How? First by legislating what an influencer is. “Today, there is no legal definition of what an influencer is,” V., a lawyer specializing in new technologieseronic Rondeau-Abouly. The profession says that this is a person who has a strong power of suggestion to the public and uses his or her celebrity to promote products or services.

The bill, which will be studied no later than April during the environmentalists’ parliamentary nest, also plans to make written contracts between the influencer and its sponsors and agents mandatory. Finally, it confirms the influencer’s obligation to mention the advertising nature of the content. A provision already provided for in the consumer code that earned reality show star Nabilla a fine last year.

According to Manuel Diaz, who runs Influx, an agency that represents influencers with brands, “laws are already in place that allow the state to act.” So what is the point of further regulation of the sector? “Influencer activity is already regulated, but in a scattered way”, Veronic Rondeau-Abouly. An observation shared by Clément from the AVI team: “The challenge today is that everyone is moving money between influencers, influencers, brands and platforms. This will at least allow all actors to be strengthened,” he hopes.

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