Fyre Festival – a Cautionary Tale for Social Media Influencers?

Associate Alexander Cole examines the recent Fyre Festival and the subsequent lawsuits which have been filed against its social media influencers who promoted the festival.

In April 2017, Fyre Festival, a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, made news after it was cancelled amid reports of poor infrastructure and security concerns.

The festival has given rise to a number of lawsuits.   One in particular, which has been brought against the ‘influencers’ who promoted the Fyre Festival on social media, serves as a useful reminder of the legal obligations on anyone being paid to promote products online, whether they are a musician, model, blogger or vlogger.

Amongst other things, the lawsuit alleges that only one of the influencers named in the lawsuit (actress/model Emily Ratajkowski) complied with US Federal Trade Commission requirements for online sponsored content.

In the UK, it is legal to pay influencers to promote products via social media.  However the content is subject to regulation by the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”).  Both the Committees of Advertising Practice (“CAP”) and the Competition & Markets Authority (“CMA”) have published detailed guidance in this area, and it is clear that influencers accepting payment (whether in the form of cash or freebies) to endorse products need to make sure that they clearly label the relevant content as an advertisement feature.  There are as yet no strict rules as to what specific label should be used but the CAP has advised that “ad”, “ad feature”, “advertorial” are all likely to be acceptable.

In addition, influencers will also need to make sure that any sponsored content complies with the specific terms and conditions of the social media platform on which they are publishing such content, which may differ in each case.