A Prison Sentence Too Far for Influencers

Discover our opinion on France's proposed legislation regarding influencer marketing and our concerns surrounding its potential implications

It was reported earlier this week that France is set to become the first country in the world to introduce new legislation around the influencer marketing industry, aimed at legally defining the role of influencers and regulating their promotional content.

While the proposed measures seek to enhance transparency and protect social users and potential consumers, we at Disrupt believe the severity of the punishments is too extreme.

As reported in TIME earlier this week, this legislative bill put forth by French MPs Stéphane Vojetta and Arthur Delaporte aims to ban influencers from promoting cosmetic surgery, cryptocurrencies and other various financial services and products that are seen to be counterfeit. 

Creators will also be forced to disclose the use of any filters, body or face altering and editing to photos or videos that are used as part of promotional content. Additionally, those collaborating with gambling or betting brands will need to include warnings about gambling addiction risks.

Now, you might be thinking, that all sounds perfectly reasonable – and to be honest, we agree with you. We think that the global influencer marketing industry is crying out for more transparency, we support efforts to ensure that influencers accurately represent the brands, products, and services they endorse. Genuine engagement and trust between influencers and their followers are vital for sustainable growth. As industry insiders, we recognize the importance of ethical practices and accountability to maintain consumer confidence.

We do not agree, however, that a potential 6-month prison sentence and a €300K fine is a reasonable punishment (in most circumstances) for promoting within certain verticals or failing to be transparent around editing, especially considering unintentional errors that can occur in this industry (how many times have you had to edit an Instagram caption!?).

Does it not seem a touch extreme?

Our Influencer Account Director, Stella Thewes says:

“I agree with the overall sentiment of increased transparency on social media and believe that disclosing editing similarly to paid partnerships is overall the right thing to do. However, it feels like the crime does not fit the potential punishment in relation to prison sentences. The influencer industry as a whole should continue to become more conscious of the impact they are having on users, but there is also a responsibility on communities to provide education on safe social media usage.”

Our senior Influencer Account Manager, Hannah Turner agrees, saying:

We know from experience there are controversial brands looking to use influencer marketing, but there are steps that brands and agencies can take to ensure everything is respectful of consumers, banning them altogether seems a tad extreme. I agree there should be more regulations on examining an influencer’s audiences before choosing an influencer  (no under 25s for example) and having disclaimers across influencer content if needed. 

But on the topic of filters, putting an influencer in jail for editing a picture is wild. I think content creators should absolutely be transparent about their editing, especially if it’s quite extreme,  but a cute filter or editing out a mark is nothing, surely there are more important things to worry about?! It gets out of hand when influencers completely change their appearance and present it to the world as if it’s normal or attainable. We know that this can affect the young people who watch them and can have severe impacts on mental health and confidence, so I agree that there should be consequences when taken too far – certainly not jail time though!”.

As TIME reported, Vojetta acknowledges the limitations of the judicial process in that it can be “notoriously slow”  and suggests that instead, the platforms should play a significant role in deterring noncompliance. Removing content that violates the proposed laws and imposing fines for repeat offences seems to strike a more reasonable balance to us. Though, while we recognize the need for consequences, banishment from social media platforms still seems harsh. 

In our opinion, France’s steps into legislating the influencer marketing industry highlight a growing recognition of the importance of authenticity and transparency. And as an agency working in the world of influencer marketing, we support these ideals wholeheartedly! But as stated, we believe the proposed punishments are somewhat disproportionate to the violations they are for. 

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