Disguised advertising for McDonald’s: "There is a gray area on the internet that we are in the process of filling", assures LREM deputy Bruno Studer

The UFC-Que Choisir announced Wednesday, October 13 to file a complaint for “deceptive commercial practices” against McDonald’s France, after having spotted videos, especially on Youtube, where very young influencers praise McDonald’s products. Without these videos mentioning the existence of a partnership between the company and these children. The consumer association denounces disguised advertising, and “a legal no man’s land” on social media about it.

“There is a gray area on the internet” on the subject of influencer children, recognizes on franceinfo the deputy La République en Marche (LREM) of Haut-Rhin, Bruno Studer, but “that we are in the process of filling”. The author of a law passed last year, relating to “the work component” (remuneration, working time) of child influencers, points to the existence of another text, emanating from a European directive, aimed at regulating “the product placement and advertising component”. He wants “align the rules for platforms and social networks with the rules existing on television”. Product placements have been banned in children’s television programs since 2010. “This law is simply awaiting an implementing decree“, he specifies.

franceinfo: Is there a law today that regulates advertising and product placement on social networks, by and for children?

Bruno Studer: There is a gray area on the internet that we are in the process of filling. With regard to the product placement and advertising aspect, the legal vacuum [dénoncé par UFC-Que Choisir] is actually not that empty. A law was passed in 2020 in the National Assembly, in application of a European directive. Today, this law is simply awaiting an implementing decree which should in fact allow, when it comes to product placement or advertising aimed at children, to align the rules for platforms and social networks, on the rules existing on television. For example, it is forbidden to include a child in a teleshopping program. Me, I’ve always said that these influencers, ultimately, were modern day home shopping, but power ten, because sometimes they have five, six, seven, eight million people following them. We are pioneers on a French scale on this subject but we are also followed by other countries, such as Brazil, where the São Paulo State Court of Appeal has ordered the toy firm Mattel to stop the use of a Youtube channel of a child influencer. She was broadcasting live commercials. Finally, concerning the platforms, it should be understood that Instagram, TikTok or Youtube are foreign companies. We therefore need to act on a European and even global scale.

This “disguised advertising” for McDonald’s, denounced by the UFC-Que Choisir, does it fall within the framework of your law, which relates to the remuneration and working time of child influencers?

Yes, as long as a working relationship is established between parents and children. Parents can script, give instructions to their children, who, in exchange, can receive income, generated either by monetization or by product placement. The law that I had passed protects child influencers, and not prohibits them. There are child models, actors or singers. It was simply necessary to align the rights and protections of child influencers with what exists for the children of the show.

There is also the question of the role of adults who script these promotional videos.

Of course, it is children and adults who make children work. And that’s why from now on, the videos are extremely framed. Before the law [dont le député est l’auteur], voted in 2020, there was no rule that forced parents to respect filming times, rest times and the fact of putting the money generated by this activity in a bank account. It is of course up to the courts or the decentralized administrative services of the State to carry out checks. Afterwards, as it is about the platforms, one relies a lot on their cooperation, under the supervision of the Superior council of audio-visual (CSA), in collaboration with associations which can finally report these videos.

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