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Instagram celebrities keep sneaking in sponsored posts, FTC says

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The Federal Trade Commission recently sent letters to more than 90 “influencers and marketers” warning them about disclosing when social media posts are paid for by advertisers, the agency said today in a statement.

The FTC did not name any recipients of the letters, but said the action was taken in part because of petitions by advocacy organization Public Citizen about Instagram posts. In a September 7th letter to the agency, the group noted several apparent cases of non-compliance with disclosure rules on Instagram. The letter highlighted posts by celebrities like Bella Hadid, Rihanna, and Michael Phelps. The FTC, which says this is the first time it has reached out to social media influencers directly to teach them about disclosures, also advised users to make disclosures on Instagram conspicuous — above the “more” button, and not buried within hashtags.

Under FTC endorsement guidelines, social media users must disclose when there is some kind of relationship, often monetary, between the endorsement-maker and an advertiser. This usually takes the form of a note like #ad or #sponsored. If an account endorses a product without making that clear, it could be in violation of the guidelines.

The agency has taken action before when it spots violations of the rules. In July of last year, Warner Bros. settled charges that it had improperly paid YouTube stars, including PewDiePie, to promote the game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.