The wording of the new law was approved by French lawmakers across the political spectrum and could mean jail time or stiff fines.
The French parliament adopted a bipartisan bill on Thursday to regulate the activities of social media influencers to prevent the promotion of dangerous products and trends.
After lawmakers in the National Assembly voted in favor of it on Wednesday, 342 senators from across the political spectrum voted to pass the bill introduced by Socialist lawmaker Arthur Delaporte and Renaissance lawmaker Stéphane Vojetta to President Emmanuel Macron.
“We can be proud of this unprecedented agreement,” said reporter Amel Gackre, the senator tasked with introducing the bill to the upper chamber.
Speaking after the vote, junior minister for commerce Olivia Grégoire praised “the commitment of MPs” and “the quality of the work”.
There are an estimated 150,000 influencers in France, but the actions of some of them have made influencer marketing in line with growing criticism.
Plaintiffs have launched a collective action and a scathing report has been published by the French Directorate for Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF).
More surprisingly, French rapper Booba is on a digital crusade against those he has nicknamed “influ-thieves” — “influvolers” in French — amplifying the issue through his campaign on social media.
From the promotion of dangerous products to allegations of fraud, there is a growing demand to regulate the market.
Starting Wednesday, influencers Ilan Castronovo and Simon Castaldi have been ordered to display on social media a message from the DGCCRF warning against some of their content.
Many influencers have modest audiences, but some celebrities with millions of followers can influence consumption behavior, especially among young people.
Delaporte said, “Influentialists will continue to work. ‘Influ-thieves’ will always exist, but they will know the law is out to punish them.”
The text “will protect consumers, especially young ones,” Vojetta said.
What does the law change for influencers?
The text proposes to legally define influencers as “individuals or legal entities who, for a fee, amplify their notoriety with their audience” to promote goods and services online.
It prohibits the promotion of certain practices – such as cosmetic surgery and medical embalming – and restricts or heavily regulates the promotion of many medical devices.
It also prohibits the promotion of products containing nicotine.
It tackles sports betting and gambling: influencers will no longer be able to promote subscriptions to sports predictions, and money sports promotion will be limited to platforms that technically restrict access to minors.
Penalties for non-compliance can be up to two years in prison and a fine of €300,000.
The law also prohibits staged scenes with animals whose ownership is prohibited.
For example, promotional images of cosmetics must disclose whether they have been retouched or have used filters to make them more attractive.
Several senators have stressed the need to strengthen the resources of regulatory authorities, including the DGCCRF and the Financial Markets Authority, in the future.
“There are many sheriffs and they must have the means to do the job properly,” Gackre said. It comes after Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned last month that the region “cannot be the Wild West”.
Who Else Does It Affect?
Agents of influencers will also be regulated. A written contract would be mandatory when the amount involved exceeds a certain limit. The text also includes measures to hold platforms accountable.
While many successful influencers work from overseas, such as in Dubai, the lesson is aimed at those working from the EU, Switzerland, or outside the European Economic Area, the need to take out civil liability insurance within the EU.
The stated goal is to create a fund to compensate potential victims. They must also designate a legal representative in the EU.
In late March, the Union of Influence Professions and Content Creators (Umicc), which recently began representing agencies in the sector, praised the “commendable and needed proposals”.
However, he warned lawmakers about the risk of “discrimination or over-regulation” of some actors.