France influencers: Jail threat for those found flouting new ad laws
Influencers in France could now face jail time if they are found to have broken new promotion regulations after legislation was formally adopted on Thursday.
The extreme new regulations aim to shield consumers from misleading or fake commercial practices online.
They limit the advancement of lottery and betting games and the advertisement of items such as tobacco.
It is the first time the role has been legally defined in Europe.
The cross-party regulation was passed collectively in a Senate vote on Wednesday after making its way through the rest of Parliament.
Influencers are online characters who have huge quantities of supporters and can start trends. Some encourage people to buy the products they are promoting but often do not declare they are accepting money in return for advertising them.
French lawmakers said that faced with an increase in the number of people being scammed online, they had sought to “clarify the contours” of commercial activity and specify the “responsibilities and obligations” of influencers.
Under their new laws, “actors of commercial influence” will not be able to advertise lottery or gambling games on platforms that do not have the capacity to prohibit minors.
The promotion of cosmetic surgery and some financial products and medical devices will also be forbidden, alongside tobacco.
Infringements could mean a punishment of up to two years in prison or a fine of up to €300,000 (£257,000; $322,000).
However, there are concerns about the ability of the authorities to police the new rules – especially when influencers’ accounts are visible in France but the person is physically outside the country’s jurisdiction.
France is thought to have more than 150,000 influencers, according to its Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty,