In June, we posted that Instagram users would start seeing a new “Paid partnership with” tag on certain posts. The company explained that this was part of a tool designed to “help creators more clearly communicate to their followers when they are working in partnership with a business.” (It also allows users to better track the performance of their posts.) Until recently, the tool was open only to a small group of users.
Last week, Instagram announced that they were going to expand the “availability of the tool to Instagrammers with high levels of engagement.” In addition, the company noted that people with access to the tool will receive in-app notifications when Instagram’s “systems find content that falls outside of our policy. In these cases, the content’s creator will be notified through the Instagram app and will have the option to tag a business.”
Although Instagram’s tool is intended to make it easier for influencers to comply with the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, it’s not clear to what extent the tool will have the desired effect. For example, in a Twitter chat hosted by the FTC in September, the FTC staff cast some doubt on whether the tools offered by Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are sufficient to enable influencers to comply with their legal requirements.
There hasn’t been any enforcement on this issue yet, so it’s too early to tell whether the FTC will challenge companies and influencers who rely solely on these tools to make their disclosures. But if you do plan to do that, you may want to first discuss the risks with your legal counsel.