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Most European Influencers Fail to Disclose Ads a Sweep Finds

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The majority of influencers and social media creators across Europe are breaking European Union consumer law by failing to disclose their advertising activities.

The regulation of online influence is a growing discussion across the EU, with the Belgian presidency especially keen, it has been reported, to introduce further legislation at a national level.

According to research carried out for the European Commission that examined the posts of 576 influencers across major social media platforms, nearly all (97%) of them were posting commercial content, but only one in five (20%) were verifying that their content was advertising.

Under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, EU consumer law aims to ensure that commercial communications are transparent and that influencer posts do not mislead consumers with false or untruthful product or service promotions. Any such promoted message should be disclosed as advertising activity.

The sweep of influencer accounts was led by the Belgian Directorate-General for Economic Inspection. It ran across EU member states Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, as well as Iceland and Norway. The initiative involved influencers on platforms including Instagram (572), TikTok (334), YouTube (224), Facebook (202), X (82), Snapchat (52) and Twitch (28).

It found that 358 were earmarked for further investigation, with each set to be contacted by national authorities with a request that they follow the rules, with further enforcement action imposed if necessary.

The sweep also found that 38% did not use platform labels such as “paid partnership” to disclose commercial content.

This comes after the EC said it intended to heighten scrutiny around the business practices of influencers, which are projected to generate $24 billion globally this year.

“With the sprawling development of social media platforms, the influencer scene has become a full-fledged business,” said Didier Reynders, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, in a statement. “Today, most influencers get revenues from their posts. However, our findings show that they do not always disclose it to their followers. Influencers hold considerable sway over their followers, many of which are minors. I call on them to be much more transparent to their audience.”

Other findings from the sweep were that while 78% of those studied were verified influencers exercising a commercial activity, only 36% were registered as traders at a national level and 30% did not provide any company details in their posts, such as an email address, postal address or company name.

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