France to tighten rules on online influencers, including a ban on cosmetic surgery adverts

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France to tighten rules on online influencers, including a ban on cosmetic surgery adverts
People make selfie near the Eiffel tower at sunset in Paris (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

France could become the first country in Europe to create rules for online 'influencers' - with proposals including a ban on advertising cosmetic surgery and a requirement to state if filters or photo-editing tools have been used on pictures or videos.


France's minister of economy, Bruno Le Maire, announced on Friday that the French government hopes to take several measures in order to better regulate online 'influencers'.

After three months of consultations, Le Maire outlined the 13 parts of the proposal during a press conference on Friday morning, which are to be added to a draft law that will be debated and voted on by France's parliament.


The finance minister said that that this would make France the first nation to have put in place a framework and clear rules for regulating the commercial influencer sector.


Filters and editing - One measure would require influencers to mention any use of filters when posting images online and to specify whether the photo has been retouched. 

The rationale for this new regulation is based in data that has shown the adverse psychological effects that 'perfect-looking bodies' can have on social media users, namely young people who are less capable of distinguishing whether a photo has been retouched or not.

As such, influencers would be required to add a statement that is visible during the entire time of viewing, and across all formats - whether that be a photo or a video. This would mirror a similar measure which was adopted in Norway in 2021.

Cosmetic surgery - the French government is hoping to rein in advertising for cosmetic surgery on social media. 

"Any promotion concerning cosmetic surgery, by an influencer as part of a paid partnership, will now be prohibited", said Le Maire, adding that this is due to growing concern at the rising number of young people who have sought cosmetic surgery to change the size of their nose or breasts.

In 2020, cosmetic surgical procedures increased by 20 percent, according to the National Union of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (SNCPRE). 

Protecting influencers under 18 - for would-be influencers under the age of 16, the new proposal would require that they obtain an approval from state services before engaging in commercial work, and that 90 percent of money earned as an influencer be co-signed until they come of age.

Simplifying reporting mechanisms - Part of Le Maire's proposal would make it so that French consumers are also better protected from online scams by strengthening reporting mechanisms. The French government will assign 'trusted reporter' status to several associations where consumers can safely go to report online fraud in relation to influencers.

Requirements for social media platforms - the proposal would require digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to set up their own reporting channels to better protect consumers from fraud. 

Finally, the French government itself hopes to set up a "dedicated team of 15 public servants" who will respond to reports made by the public about fraud online.

What about the penalties?

According to BFMTV, the penalties for breaking any of these rules would involve the deletion - whether permanent or temporary - of the influencer's social media account. However, this will remain to be seen, as social media providers will have to agree to such a proposal.

It will also be the responsibility of the team of 15 public servants to determine whether fraud reported online should be sent to the courts. Failing to report the advertising nature of a video or photo posted, which is already part of the legal framework in France, and could lead to up two years imprisonment or a fine of €300,000. 

According to the consumer protection arm of the ministry of economy , the DGCCRF, six out of 10 influencers in France did not respect this regulation on advertising.

According to Le Figaro, France has approximately 150,000 influencers. Part of Le Maire's proposal would be to create a legal definition for the sector: "commercial influence activity" and require that contracts between brands, agencies and influencers be required. 


The proposals put forward by the finance minister have been added to a bill that is set to be examined by France's Assemblée Nationale next week. 


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