FTC demands disclosure from influencers following TmarTn CS:GO scandal

Commission rules that influencers must "clearly and conspicuously" identify links to products and services

The Federal Trade Commission has ordered that two controversial YouTubers - and all other influencers by extension - must disclose any ties they have to anything promoted in their videos.

The ruling is part of a settlement between the FTC, Trevor 'TmarTn' Martin and Thomas 'Syndicate' Cassell following a scandal that emerged around the latter two last year. Martin and Cassell were both revealed to be co-owners of a online gambling service CSGO Lotto, something they failed to mention when promoting the site on YouTube.

The FTC also reports the duo are believed to have paid thousands of dollars to other high-profile influence to help market the site via YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and Facebook - again without disclosing these deals in their posts.

The Commision has ordered Martin and Cassell to "clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connections with an endorser or between an endorser and any promoted product or service."

It is the FTC's first case involving social media influencers and sets a precedent that will apply to any other content creators in similar positions.

"Consumers need to know when social media influencers are being paid or have any other material connection to the brands endorsed in their posts," said Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chairman of the FTC.

"This action, the FTC's first against individual influencers, should send a message that such connections must be clearly disclosed so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions."

The FTC hasn't stopped there, either. It has also sent warning letters to 21 influencers who were contacted earlier this year about Instagram posts with undisclosed endorsements, and has updated staff guidance for dealing with such cases.

There's also a 'dos and don'ts' on the FTC site for social media influencers, with advice such as "don't assume followers know all about your brand relationships", "ensure your sponsorship disclosure is hard to miss", and "don't rely on disclosures that people will only see if they click 'more'."

Organisations such as the FTC are being increasingly aware of the lack of disclosure some influencers are thriving upon, as well as other offences. Last year, the UK Gambling Commission prosecuted two FIFA streamers for inviting children to gamble.

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