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The FTC looks to crack down on influencers and platforms over ‘fake and manipulated reviews’

In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission issued a friendly, easy-to-understand digital booklet called Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers, designed to help streamers and influencers understand when and how to disclose their promotional relationships with companies. Now it looks like the FTC is preparing to draw a harder line against “stealth advertising” and endorsement disclosure, as it has voted to consider updating its guidelines against “fake and manipulated reviews.”

The FTC has been battling against deceptive online advertising for years. In 2015, for instance, it settled a case against Machinima Inc. over its failure to disclose the fact that it was paying its influencers for promotional videos; a year later, WBIE settled similar charges relating to a Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor promotional campaign. The ongoing problems helped prompt the creation of the Disclosures 101 primer, but the Endorsement Guides underpinning it were last updated in 2009, a geological span of time in the digital world. Thus, the FTC has proposed changes to its guidelines that “reflect the extent to which advertisers have turned increasingly to the use of social media and product reviews to market their products.”

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