Strengthening sanctions, new bans: after the National Assembly, the Senate tackles Tuesday a text aimed at better regulating the activity of influencers and fight against abuses on social networks. Adopted unanimously at first reading at the end of March by deputies, this transpartisan text, supported by Bercy and the Minister of SMEs Olivia Grégoire, gives a legal definition to influencers and prohibits certain practices.
With an estimated number of 150,000 influencers in France, of which only 15% would exercise this activity full-time, this sector in full development is in the sights of associations, but also of the government, which has initiated the accelerated procedure on this text. Having become stars with millions of followers, influencers spread content on social networks that can greatly guide behavior, especially for younger people.
The Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) has published a damning study on their practices. The rapper Booba also served as a sounding board by attacking the pope of influencers Magali Berdah, who called him a "stalker". The influencer was heard by the rapporteur of the text in the Senate, Amel Gacquerre (centrist), the rapper having for his part indicated that he would not go to the Luxembourg Palace. "I'm not trying to do politics, just to unmask these +influencers+ and fight the culture of emptiness. I'll let you do your job. Condemn them, punish them, thank you," he tweeted.
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire announced last week that Bercy would make public "in the coming days" the names of influencers "who have not respected the rules", a measure that is intended to be "dissuasive" to fight against commercial drifts. "Penalties, injunctions, criminal prosecution" will be initiated, he promised.
Alcohol and junk food
Before the debate in the hemicycle, from Tuesday, the senators voted an amended text in committee. "Work has been carried out to better protect our public health, our youth, consumers and savers," said the rapporteur. The senators strengthened in committee the sanctions applicable if advertising bans are not respected or if an influencer conceals the true commercial intention of his publication: up to two years imprisonment (instead of 6 months in the text voted by the deputies) and 300,000 euros fine.
They have provided that influencers are required to display the unique mention "Advertising" on their commercial publications. To the prohibitions of certain practices provided for by the text, such as the promotion of cosmetic surgery, they added the prohibition of the promotion of therapeutic abstention, nicotine bags whose sale on the Internet is developing among teenagers, or subscriptions to sports betting predictions. They also want to force influencers promoting gambling to display a statement: "Forbidden to under eighteen years".
Will that be enough for associations? Nothing is less certain. As in the Assembly, amendments to prohibit the promotion of gambling, alcoholic beverages or food products that are too fatty, salty or sweet were rejected in committee. The senators also removed the ban, fought hard from the Assembly, for minors under sixteen years of age to promote this type of food.
Without a reaction from the Senate for an ambitious regulation, manufacturers will continue to use the aura of influencers to encourage young people to consume alcohol and junk food, "warned Foodwatch France and Addictions France in a forum published this weekend in Libération. "The agri-food and alcohol giants guide the decisions of many parliamentarians. But we want to believe that not everyone is fooled. The Senate can and must pull itself together.»