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

Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, made it his “top priority”: the supervision of influencers was at the heart of a round table this Thursday in Bercy. Lack of transparency, defective or illicit products, conflicts of interest, dropshipping… For several months now, the executive has been interested in the sometimes dubious practices of these stars of social networks. The case Magali Berdah-Booba and a program of Further Investigation raised awareness.

As proof, Magali Berdah, the popess of the sector, was not invited to the meeting on Thursday. On the other hand, were present agents of influencers, social networks (including YouTube and Tiktok), organizations representing the world of communication, as well as representatives of the State, from the tax authorities to the repression of fraud, through the regulatory authorities of gambling and financial markets.

This first meeting, intended to clear the ground, must lead to “very concrete proposals” in “spring”, indicated the Ministry of the Economy. Consumer protection, taxation framework, development of the profession… The stakes are high and the subjects numerous.

Very profitable partnerships

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

Which didn’t always end well. On social networks, the AVI collective (Help for victims of influencers) and the account “Your stars in reality” continue to warn about the business of certain influencers, which range from lack of information, to scams, to deceptive, unfair or prohibited commercial practices. the latest ARPP reportthe Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority, still 17% of paid partnerships are not transparent enough.

For the time being, in France, the regulation of the sector is mainly based on voluntary commitments, such as the “Certificate of Responsible Influence” from the ARPP, or the “Charter of Influencer Relations” of the Public Relations Consulting Union (SCRP). What could soon change: in the viewfinder of Bercy, the practices of influencers are also the subject ofa bill of the ecologist deputy Aurélien Taché.

Existing rules

This text aims to “lay down a legal framework for the activity of influencers on social networks”. How ? First by defining in law what an influencer is. “Today, there is no legal definition of what an influencer is, explains lawyer specializing in new technologies Veronic Rondeau-Abouly. The profession says that it is a person who has a strong power of suggestion on the public and who takes advantage of his notoriety to promote products or services”.

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

According to Manuel Diaz, who runs Influx, an agency representing influencers with brands, “there are already laws that allow the state to act”. Therefore, what is the point of further regulating the sector? “Influencer activity is already regulated, but in a scattered way”, observes Veronic Rondeau-Abouly. An observation shared by Clément, from the AVI collective: “Today, the difficulty is that everyone passes the buck, between influencers, influence agencies, brands and platforms. It will at least make it possible to empower all the actors, ”he hopes.

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

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