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France has approved a law that targets influencers. What does it mean for social media stars?

France's new influencer law could mean penalties of two years in prison and fines of €300,000.
France's new influencer law could mean penalties of two years in prison and fines of €300,000. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Oceane Duboust with AFP
Published on Updated
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The wording of the new law was approved by French lawmakers across the political spectrum and could mean jail time or stiff fines.

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The French Parliament adopted a bipartisan bill on Thursday to regulate social media influencers' activities in a bid to curb the promotion of dangerous products and trends.

After lawmakers in the National Assembly voted in favour of it on Wednesday, 342 senators from across the political spectrum voted to pass the bill introduced by socialist MP Arthur Delaporte and Stéphane Vojetta, an MP from President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance.

"We can be proud of this unprecedented agreement," said rapporteur Amel Gacquerre, the senator tasked with presenting the bill in the upper chamber.

Speaking after the vote, Olivia Grégoire, Junior Minister for Commerce, hailed the "commitment of the parliamentarians" and "the quality of this work".

There are an estimated 150,000 influencers in France, but the actions of some of them have put influencer marketing in line with increasing criticism.

'Influvoleurs'

Plaintiffs have launched collective actions and a scathing report has been published by the French Fraud Prevention Directorate (DGCCRF).

More surprisingly, the French rapper Booba has been on a digital crusade against those whom he nicknamed "influ-thieves" - "influvoleurs" in French - amplifying the issue through his campaigning on social media.

From the promotion of dangerous products to accusations of fraud, there have been growing calls for the market to be regulated.

Since Wednesday, influencers Illan Castronovo and Simon Castaldi have been ordered to display a message from the DGCCRF on social media warning against some of their content.

Many influencers have a modest audience, but some celebrities with millions of followers can influence consumption behaviors, especially among young people.

"Influencers will continue to operate. The 'influ-thieves' will always exist but will know that the law is there to punish them", Delaporte said.

The text "will protect consumers, especially the younger ones," added Vojetta.

What does the law change for influencers?

The text proposes to legally define influencers as "individuals or legal entities who, for a fee, mobilise their notoriety with their audience" to promote goods and services online.

It prohibits the promotion of certain practices - such as cosmetic surgery and therapeutic abstention - and prohibits or heavily regulates the promotion of several medical devices.

It also bans the promotion of products containing nicotine.

It tackles sports betting and gambling: influencers will no longer be able to promote subscriptions to sports forecasts, and the promotion of money games will be limited to platforms that technically restrict access to minors.

The penalties for non-compliance can go up to two years in prison and a fine of €300,000.

The law also bans staged scenes with animals whose ownership is prohibited.

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Promotional images - of cosmetics, for example - must disclose whether they have been retouched or use a filter making them more attractive.

Several senators have emphasised the need to strengthen the resources of regulatory authorities in the future, including those of the DGCCRF and the Financial Markets Authority.

"There are many sheriffs and they must have the means to work properly," Gacquerre said. This comes after the economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, warned last month that the sector "could not be the Wild West".

Who else does it affect?

Influencers’ agents will also be regulated. A written contract will be mandatory when the amounts involved exceed a certain threshold. The text also includes measures to hold platforms accountable.

While many successful influencers operate from abroad, such as in Dubai, the text aims to require those operating from outside the European Union, Switzerland, or the European Economic Area to take out civil liability insurance within the EU.

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The stated goal is to create a fund to compensate potential victims. They will also have to 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 "commendable and essential proposals".

However, they warned lawmakers about the risk of "discriminating or over-regulating" certain actors.

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