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The Federal Trade Commission filed its first-ever case against social media "influencers" last week. The FTC says that two popular gamers posted messages endorsing an online gaming service without disclosing that the two gamers owned the company. It also sent 21 warning letters to prominent social media influencers that it had previously warned about their potential violation of FTC standards.

Why it matters: The ambiguity around "influencers" hawking products on social media sites has created an advertising frenzy on social media, with no clear distinction between who is sponsoring what. FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen says the Commission's first-ever action against individual influencers, "should send a message that such connections must be clearly disclosed so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions."

  • Our thought bubble: Like the FTC's native advertising guidelines, these will be tough to enforce. A MediaRadar study earlier this year found that nearly 40% of media organizations don't comply with the FTC's standards for labeling and disclosing native ads.
  • Worth noting: Influencers have a unique relationship with consumers that brands would kill to leverage. This is why some media companies are letting their own talent hawk products as influencers on their personal social media accounts. With this in mind, some of the biggest tech companies are trying to get a part of the action.
  • Google & Microsoft are building software to identify influencers, according to CB Insights. "New patents aim to identify and encourage online experts and influencers — with implications for brands and content creators."

Go deeper

2 mins ago - Health

Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, said he's reluctant to withhold federal funding from states that won't enforce school mask mandates because he doesn't want to hurt students.

Why it matters: Cardona's comments suggest there are limits to how far the Biden administration will go in pressuring states to adopt universal masking — or vaccine mandates.

Mike Allen, author of AM
13 mins ago - Axios on HBO

GOP senator smacks Trump

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told “Axios on HBO” he’s not sure former President Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination if he ran in 2024 — a rare voice of criticism from within the party.

  • When I raised the conventional wisdom that Trump would be expected to win the nomination, Cassidy jumped in.“
  • I don't know that,” the senator said during our interview in Chalmette, La.
23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congress begins yearend sprint

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House and Senate face an onslaught of deadlines key to fulfilling members' campaign promises and keeping the government afloat as they return from recess this week.

Why it matters: The next few weeks will be pivotal to enacting President Biden's agenda — and determining how the Democratic Party fares in the midterm elections.

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