FTC To Unveil Proposed Revisions To Endorsement Guides

The Federal Trade Commission plans Thursday to unveil a long-awaited proposed update to its guidance regarding online endorsements.

The proposed update “will address fake reviews and the suppression of negative reviews, among other things,” and will also “reflect current advertising realities concerning endorsements,” the FTC says.

The move comes more than two years after the agency sought feedback from the public about a wide variety of topics related to influencer marketing -- including how well advertisers and endorsers disclose payment for promotional posts and whether children can understand disclosures.

FTC's last major overhaul of the endorsement guides took place in 2009 -- before Instagram, one of the largest platforms for influencer marketing, was founded. The agency said in that 13-year-old guidance that online endorsers must disclose material connections between themselves and advertisers.

The FTC's guidiance isn't in itself enforceable, but indicates the type of activity the agency considers deceptive.

While the FTC hasn't released an official update to its endorsement guides in years, the agency has repeatedly said that social media users who have any relationships with businesses or people they endorse should disclose those connections when writing reviews, posting on Instagram and tweeting.

Jeff Greenbaum, an advertising lawyer with Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, says the guidance will offer an “important window into what the current commission believes are the key issues” surrounding influencer marketing.

“This is guidance we've been waiting for for a long time,” Greenbaum says. “Social media and influencer marketing is one of the most important aspects of marketing today and advertisers are anxiously waiting to see what the FTC has to say on these issues.”

The agency will vote Thursday on whether to solicit public comments on the proposed revisions.

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