France to tighten rules on online influencers, including a ban on cosmetic surgery adverts

France could become the first country in Europe to create rules for online 'influencers' - with proposals including a ban on advertising cosmetic surgery and a requirement to state if filters or photo-editing tools have been used on pictures or videos.

France to tighten rules on online influencers, including a ban on cosmetic surgery adverts
People make selfie near the Eiffel tower at sunset in Paris (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

France’s minister of economy, Bruno Le Maire, announced on Friday that the French government hopes to take several measures in order to better regulate online ‘influencers’.

After three months of consultations, Le Maire outlined the 13 parts of the proposal during a press conference on Friday morning, which are to be added to a draft law that will be debated and voted on by France’s parliament.

The finance minister said that that this would make France the first nation to have put in place a framework and clear rules for regulating the commercial influencer sector.

Filters and editing – One measure would require influencers to mention any use of filters when posting images online and to specify whether the photo has been retouched. 

The rationale for this new regulation is based in data that has shown the adverse psychological effects that ‘perfect-looking bodies’ can have on social media users, namely young people who are less capable of distinguishing whether a photo has been retouched or not.

As such, influencers would be required to add a statement that is visible during the entire time of viewing, and across all formats – whether that be a photo or a video. This would mirror a similar measure which was adopted in Norway in 2021.

Cosmetic surgery – the French government is hoping to rein in advertising for cosmetic surgery on social media. 

“Any promotion concerning cosmetic surgery, by an influencer as part of a paid partnership, will now be prohibited”, said Le Maire, adding that this is due to growing concern at the rising number of young people who have sought cosmetic surgery to change the size of their nose or breasts.

In 2020, cosmetic surgical procedures increased by 20 percent, according to the National Union of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (SNCPRE). 

Protecting influencers under 18 – for would-be influencers under the age of 16, the new proposal would require that they obtain an approval from state services before engaging in commercial work, and that 90 percent of money earned as an influencer be co-signed until they come of age.

Simplifying reporting mechanisms – Part of Le Maire’s proposal would make it so that French consumers are also better protected from online scams by strengthening reporting mechanisms. The French government will assign ‘trusted reporter’ status to several associations where consumers can safely go to report online fraud in relation to influencers.

Requirements for social media platforms – the proposal would require digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to set up their own reporting channels to better protect consumers from fraud. 

Finally, the French government itself hopes to set up a “dedicated team of 15 public servants” who will respond to reports made by the public about fraud online.

What about the penalties?

According to BFMTV, the penalties for breaking any of these rules would involve the deletion – whether permanent or temporary – of the influencer’s social media account. However, this will remain to be seen, as social media providers will have to agree to such a proposal.

It will also be the responsibility of the team of 15 public servants to determine whether fraud reported online should be sent to the courts. Failing to report the advertising nature of a video or photo posted, which is already part of the legal framework in France, and could lead to up two years imprisonment or a fine of €300,000. 

According to the consumer protection arm of the ministry of economy , the DGCCRF, six out of 10 influencers in France did not respect this regulation on advertising.

According to Le Figaro, France has approximately 150,000 influencers. Part of Le Maire’s proposal would be to create a legal definition for the sector: “commercial influence activity” and require that contracts between brands, agencies and influencers be required. 

The proposals put forward by the finance minister have been added to a bill that is set to be examined by France’s Assemblée Nationale next week. 

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French left in last-ditch bid to derail pensions overhaul

France's left-wing forces and labour unions will stage another day of strikes on Tuesday to try to derail President Emmanuel Macron's pensions overhaul, insisting that the fight to thwart the changes is not over even after it became law.

French left in last-ditch bid to derail pensions overhaul

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets across France for what will be the fourteenth day of  demonstrations since January to oppose the reform.

Macron signed in April the bill to raise the pension age to 64 from 62 after the government used a controversial but legal mechanism to avoid a vote in parliament that it risked losing.

The later retirement age, which seeks to bolster France’s troubled long-term finances, was a banner pledge of Macron’s second and final term in office, and its smooth implementation is seen by supporters as crucial to his legacy.

Parts of the overhaul, including the key increase in the pension age, were printed on Sunday in France’s official journal, meaning they are now law.

READ MORE: Protests and flight cancellations: What to expect from Tuesday’s French pension strike

Opponents are pinning their hopes on a motion put forward by the small Liot faction in parliament — broadly backed by the left — to repeal the law and the increased retirement age.

Parliament speaker Yael Braun-Pivet, a member of Macron’s party but officially neutral, was to rule on Thursday whether parliament could vote on returning the retirement age to 62.

This was removed from the Liot motion at commission level, but left-wing parties have sought to put it back on the agenda via an amendment.

‘Increase in anger and violence’

In an op-ed for the Le Monde daily on Monday, the key figures from all of France’s left-wing parties urged Braun-Pivet to allow a vote on the motion, at the risk of further unrest.

“For our fellow citizens, a new denial of democracy will only lead to increased disaffection for our institutions, which is already manifesting itself in the form of growing abstentionism, and even an increase in anger and violence,” they said.

Authorities expect up to 600,000 people at the demonstrations nationwide on Tuesday, less than half the peak on March 7th, when 1.28 million were counted by police.

In contrast to the earlier phase of the movement, only limited disruption is expected on public transport though some flight cancellations are awaited, in particular at the Paris Orly airport.

READ MORE: Which French airports will be hit by cancellations during Tuesday’s strike?

“The defeat has not been enacted,” Greens MP Sandrine Rousseau told Radio J, warning that “we will raise our voices” if the parliament vote is not allowed.

The battle against the pensions reform “will never finish”, hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told the 20 Minutes daily.

But Macron’s allies say it has long been game over for opponents of the reform, even if it remains widely unpopular with the public.

The opposition “knows very well that this motion has no future,” Prisca Thevenot, an MP for Macron’s Renaissance party, told LCI television on Sunday.

The government says the changes are essential for France’s financial health.

In April, Fitch, one of the leading credit ratings agencies, lowered its rating on France’s debt, which is approaching €3 trillion.

But France managed to avoid a new credit downgrade on Friday, when S&P Global maintained the agency’s “AA” rating.