With the rise of social media, everyone can be a so-called influencer. That’s good news for aspiring social media stars, but bad news for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which found it challenging to regulate shady advertising and business practices on platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
Unfortunately for the FTC, social media personalities remain enthralled with the influencer lifestyle. There is nothing influencers won’t do to get their fans to “smash the like button”, give them a “thumbs up”, and “hit subscribe” even if it tests the boundaries of decency and the law.
“Beauty influencer” shows her ugly side
People on Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok may call out brands or companies for any number of reasons, such as to demand them to change unfair business practices or to improve customer service. When an influencer with a sizable number of followers does the calling out, companies’ responses tend to be swift. For instance, Instagram influencer Iesha Vincent used her social media platforms to demand that brands hire more diverse endorsers. But for every Iesha Vincent, there are YouTubers like Mariale Marrero who’d rather create controversial content for clout.
Ms. Marrero, who has millions of YouTube subscribers, creates beauty-related content. One day in 2019, she woke up and decided to use her channel to do something thoroughly unattractive: go to the lowest rated salon in her neighborhood and create a video about her predetermined bad experience with the shop.
In the said video, Ms. Marrero maliciously claimed that the beauticians’ cheap make-up gave her skin infection, which, if she were being truthful, probably could have been used as grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. She alleged that the beauticians’ makeup kit was “salmonella-filled” and that the salon was filthy.
The beauty salon’s daughter discovered Ms. Marrero’s video, called her out on Twitter, and warned that she’ll be hearing from them again. Like every panicked influencer who does things for the ‘likes’ but not if it results in a defamation lawsuit, the beauty vlogger backtracked and apologized.
Seafood-eating vlogger sees the error of her ways
In our Renton, Seattle law offices, we’ve handled many cases involving animals. Some cases are about personal injuries caused by people’s pets (i.e., dog bite cases), while some are family law issues usually concerning the custody of dogs and/or cats. If a vlogger had called our offices seeking advice for sustaining injuries from an octopus that resisted getting eaten alive, we would be stumped.
A Chinese vlogger who goes by the name “Seaside Girl Little Seven” filmed herself eating a live octopus, perhaps in a bid to differentiate herself from other vloggers who eat normal food. When she had the brilliant idea to eat a live octopus and film herself doing it, she attained the fame and notoriety she had been chasing. In the infamous video, the tentacled creature tried to resist being eaten alive. To teach the vlogger a lesson, it latched onto her cheeks and left her a scar.
If this had happened in, say, a seafood restaurant, she might have been able to hold the establishment liable for serving her a live animal that fights back. But as it happened at her home and was done in the name of gaining views, all she ended up getting were snarky comments from the video’s hundreds of thousands of viewers about how she deserved it.
We would certainly file this under absurd cases we would never take.
Underaged YouTuber cons people into thinking she was older than her age
Maliciously defaming a local salon and eating a live animal for likes are, arguably, child’s play compared to what other YouTubers do to amass a large following. In 2019, YouTuber Danielle Cohn was only 13 years old when she started posting content that was not quite age-appropriate on her YouTube channel and Instagram account, which undoubtedly helped her gain millions of subscribers and followers.
To convince people that she’s the ripe old age of 15, she posted a video of herself signing a consent form to undergo a belly button procedure accompanied by her mom. Ms. Cohn also got into a relationship with 17-year old influencer Mikey Tua because, as everyone knows, being in a romantic relationship is a sure sign of maturity. Mr. Tua’s parents eventually became aware of their son and Ms. Cohn’s relationship and took over little Mikey’s social media accounts until legal matters concerning their online shenanigans were sorted out.
It’s difficult to imagine a world without YouTube, but no one can deny that it’s the perfect platform to display problematic behavior. For one, it allows children as young as 13 to create their own channels. Parents can set guidelines for their kids who want to become YouTube-famous, but it’s often easier said than done.
Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are the team to call for family law and personal injury lawsuits in the Evergreen State. Don’t forget to smash the like button on our Facebook page. If you’re old-fashioned, call our Renton offices — 425-448-4740.