FTC Approves Final Order Requiring Warner Bros. to Disclose Payments to Online Influencers

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Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., settling charges that the company failed to adequately disclose that it paid online influencers to post gameplay videos.

According to the FTC’s complaint, announced in July 2016, Warner Bros. deceived consumers during a marketing campaign for the video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, by failing to adequately disclose that it paid online “influencers” thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media. Over the course of the campaign, the sponsored videos were viewed more than 5.5 million times.

The FTC also alleged Warner Bros. gave influencers a free advance-release version of the game and told them how to promote it. Warner Bros. also allegedly required the influencers to promote the game in a positive way and not to disclose any bugs or glitches they found.

Under the final order, Warner Bros. is barred from failing to make such disclosures in the future and cannot misrepresent that sponsored content, including gameplay videos, are the objective, independent opinions of video game enthusiasts or influencers.

The Commission vote approving the final order and responses to the public commenters was 3-0. (FTC File No. 152-3034; the staff contact is Linda Badger, FTC Western Region, San Francisco, 415-848-5151.)

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