Commentary

Fyre Social Influencers Sued For Fraud

Everyone enjoyed a good round of schadenfreude at the expense of the organizers and attendees of the Fyre Festival, an event billed as Coachella on a tropical island that ended up more like the fall of Saigon. On a serious note, the promoters are lucky no one actually died.

That said, there’s still plenty of fodder for lawsuits, including one targeting the celebrity social media “influencers” who helped promote the doomed festival.

Last week, three anonymous attendees filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against the festival organizers and 100 prominent “Fyre starters,” referring to the team of social media influencers hired to build buzz around the event, alleging an array of transgressions including breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and unfair trade practices among other offenses.

The plaintiffs, who intend to expand the case into a class action lawsuit on behalf of all ticket holders, specifically note that the social media influencers failed to disclose that they were being compensated by the festival’s organizers in return for promoting the event in their social profiles.

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According to press reports the Fyre organizers paid the influencers cash and also promised free travel and lodging at the festival for marketing the event to their social media followers, altogether numbering in the hundreds of millions.

However, most of the influencers included no mention of this fact on their promotional posts.

In one prominent example, the organizers supposedly paid Instagram celeb Kendall Jenner $250,000 for just one post on the photo-sharing site touting the festival.

Among other complaints, the lawsuit alleges that, “These ‘sponsored posts’ were in direct violation of Federal Trade Commission guidelines on disclosing material connections between advertisers and endorsers. Social Media ‘influencers’ made no attempt to disclose to consumers that they were being compensated for promoting the Fyre Festival. Instead these influencers gave the impression that the guest list was full of the Social Elite and other celebrities.”

As the festival quickly unraveled, many of the celebrity influencers (who didn’t actually attend as they’d seemed to promise, probably because they were tipped off to the potential for chaos) moved quickly to distance themselves from the debacle by deleting their earlier posts.

A separate class action lawsuit brought against the festival organizers, alleging fraud, is seeking $100 million in damages.

Meanwhile, there is also the possibility of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which has shown greater interest in enforcing rules on social media influencer marketing in recent months.

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