Influencers and Brand Defamation

We live in the digital age where most advertising is now done through social media and influencers. Product advertisements have transitioned from TV channels to influencers promoting them on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and others. The difference now is that advertising is often accompanied by product reviews. Influencers test the products and then share their opinions about them.

The most advertised products are related with cosmetics, food, technology, and even cars. This strategy can be highly profitable for brands as influencers reach a wide and diverse audience of various age groups. However, this type of advertising comes with a potential dark side.

Anyone can leave a negative review and tarnish a product's reputation which can be concerning for brand owners leading to brand defamation.

Brand defamation occurs when someone disseminate negative or false information about products or services. The power of digital opinions is undeniable, and a negative review from a popular influencer can severely damage a brand's reputation and negatively impact its financial results.

Consequently, the brand loses potential customers who have never even tried their products or services. Another issue in the world of influencers is the presence of fake influencers. These are accounts where many followers are bots, and once the influencers receive payment, they disappear.

To prevent brand defamation there are several measures that can help, such as:

  • Conduct thorough research on influencers before establishing any partnership. Study their history, previous posts, the type of content they share, and the general opinion of their followers.
  • Establish contracts and agreements that clearly specify expectations and guidelines for brand promotion. Include clauses that expressly prohibit any form of defamation, false statements, or misleading information.
  • Provide clear and straightforward instructions on what exclusive rights may be used by influencers and how to use them, especially regarding the use of trademarks and copyright.
  • Monitor influencers' posts related to the brand regularly.
  • Maintain clear communication and provide guidance. Build a relationship of trust and provide training about the products. Inform influencers about the dangers of defamation and the negative impacts it can have.
  • Pre-screen content before publication. Request that influencers submit any brand-related content for review before it is published.
  • Continuously monitor post-publication reactions and feedback from followers.
  • Foster long-term partnerships with influencers to prevent defamation. Strengthen trust and the connection between the brand and influencers.

It is also very important to follow government regulations, self-regulatory guidelines, and platform policies. Influencers can build a solid foundation of trust with their audience, protect the brands they collaborate with, and contribute to a more transparent and ethical digital environment. Compliance with these regulations and guidelines is essential for the sustainable success of influencers and the maintenance of long-term relationships with their audiences and business partners.

Influencers must respect their influence

Additionally, self-regulatory guidelines and professional associations provide additional guidance, covering ethical aspects, appropriate language, respect for copyright, and data protection. Influencers should be aware of these guidelines and adopt best practices to maintain a positive reputation and build trust with their audience.

It is crucial for influencers to understand the responsibilities that come with their status and influence, ensuring that the information they share is accurate and reliable. They should avoid spreading false or misleading information, especially when it comes to products, services, or health.

For influencers who are not sponsored, it is important to consider the regulations and guidelines of each country they operate in, and to be aware of intellectual property rights, especially copyright and trademarks. They should obtain proper permission for the use of copyrighted content such as images, music or videos and provide appropriate credits when necessary.

Copyright grants the rights holder exclusive rights over the reproduction, distribution, public display, and modification of their original creations. If an influencer improperly uses copyrighted materials from a company to spread defamatory information, they may be subject to legal action for copyright infringement.

Furthermore, intellectual property encompasses other forms of intangible assets such as trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. A brand can be defamed if an influencer uses their registered trademark in a negative or derogatory manner, causing damage to the company's reputation.

Intellectual property rights are key elements in protecting against brand defamation. Brands must be vigilant about potential violations and take appropriate measures to ensure that their intangible assets are properly protected. By doing so, they can mitigate the risks of defamation and safeguard their reputation in the market. 

This is a co-published article, which was originally published in the World Intellectual Property Review (WIPR).

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