Snake oil salesmen are nothing new, but social media has made it even easier for hucksters to make outrageous claims about an unproven product all in pursuit of an easy payday.
But these self-styled nutrition influencers are increasingly in the sights of U.S. regulators.
Heed the warning
The Federal Trade Commission has conducted a lengthy investigation into the claims being made in advertisements by social media influencers who are being paid by at least two major industry advocacy groups.
In a pair of warnings directed at the American Beverage Association, the Canadian Sugar Institute, and a range of influencers with a combined 6 million+ social media followers, the agency emphasized the need for additional transparency regarding how “sponsored” posts are handled.
While FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine asserted that “sophisticated groups” such as the two named in its investigation “should be familiar” with applicable laws, he expressed hope that the latest action will drive home the importance of compliance for everyone who engages in paid advertising on social media.
The warnings, he concluded, will “be heard loud and clear, not only from trade associations and influencers in this space, but also in other industries that may think that influencers don’t need to disclose these connections.”
The industry responds
Some of those who received an FTC warning have already issued a rebuttal, including the American Beverage Association, which touted the “meticulous steps” it said it has taken to label sponsored posts appropriately.
“Importantly, no question has been raised about the substance of these posts,” the organization added.
For her part, influencer Cara Harbstreet insisted that she is “committed to ensuring [her] continued compliance with these guidelines to the fullest extent.”
Each violation of existing policies could result in up to a $50,000 fine.