80% of EU-Based Influencers Don't Disclose Sponsored Content

80% of EU-Based Influencers Don't Disclose Sponsored Content

Published: February 15, 2024

A recent study by the European Commission revealed widespread non-compliance with advertising disclosure regulations by social media influencers.

The Commission, together with the national consumer protection authorities of 22 member states, has found that a large majority of influencers are not disclosing sponsored content in their posts, as mandated by law.

The “sweep” looked at over 576 influencers across the European Union, Norway, and Iceland. According to the published results, “82 influencers had over 1 million followers, 301 over 100,000, and 73 between 5,000 and 100,000.”

The influencers are active on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X, Snapchat, and Twitch.

Key Findings

The study found that 80% or only one in five of these checked influencers had failed to disclose that they were being paid to promote a product or service.

It also found that “97% published posts with commercial content, but only 20% systematically disclosed this as advertising,” while 119 of the influencers were promoting unhealthy or hazardous activities, such as gambling or alcohol consumption.

This widespread practice of undisclosed advertising, while suspected by many, now has official confirmation.

In the EU, accepting payment for content without disclosing it as an advertisement is illegal.

However, the sweep highlights a significant enforcement gap, raising concerns about consumer protection and fair online advertising practices that make it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about the products and services that are being advertised.

Impact and Implications

While the Commission didn't disclose specific influencer identities, it stated that 358 of them will face further investigation and potential sanctions.

“National authorities will now contact them to request that they follow the rules in place. Further enforcement action may be taken if necessary, in accordance with national procedures,” the Commission said.

On February 17, the EU will adopt the Digital Services Act (DSA), ushering in a new era of online regulations.

This act aims to bolster online safety and trust by imposing specific obligations on all online platforms operating within the EU.

Consequently, influencers utilizing these platforms will face new requirements regarding transparency and content compliance.

The study's findings, coupled with the pending enforcement of the DSA, are likely to have a significant impact on the influencer marketing industry.

Brands may become more cautious about working with influencers who are not disclosing their sponsored content, while consumers may become more skeptical of the content that they see from their favorite influencers.

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