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

Ted Cruz defends GOP's expected return to prioritizing national debt

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told "Axios on HBO" on Monday that he wishes reining in the national debt was a higher priority for President Trump.

Why it matters: Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign to reduce the national debt and eliminate it entirely within eight years, though he also deemed himself "the king of debt" and said there were some priorities that required spending. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the deficit reached a record $3.1 trillion.

Federal judge blocks DOJ from defending Trump in Carroll rape defamation case

E. Jean Carroll in Warwick, New York. Photo: Eva Deitch for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the Justice Department's attempted intervention on behalf of President Trump in writer E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit against him, after she accused him of raping her in a dressing room in the mid-1990s.

Catch up quick: The agency argued that Trump was "acting within the scope of his office" as president when he said in 2019 that Carroll was "lying" about her claim.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Axios-Ipsos poll: Federal response has only gotten worse — The swing states where the pandemic is raging.
  2. Health: The coronavirus is starting to crush some hospitals — 13 states set single-day case records last week.
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events.
  6. World: Unrest in Italy as restrictions grow across Europe.
  7. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.

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