Analysing the effectiveness of Australian laws in protecting consumers from misleading social media influencer advertising
In traditional forms of advertising, celebrities were often used to promote goods and services, particularly in the areas of fashion and beauty. However, the emergence of social media has dramatically transformed this advertising industry. Social media influencers are the new celebrities guiding consumer behaviours and choices. While social media marketing has been the subject of extensive scholarly consideration, the legal liability of social media influencers has been the subject of limited academic discourse. In such a context, the central research question addressed in this thesis is whether Australian laws adequately protect consumers who purchase products or services based on reviews and advertisements created by social media influencers. To address this question, the thesis begins by providing a definition of influencers. It then formulates a theoretical framework to determine what constitutes effective law in the area of influencer marketing, focusing on tort law and representation and implied liability theories. Building on this theoretical foundation, the thesis critiques existing enforcement measures and the adequacy of legal procedural avenues. Finally, the thesis presents recommendations to Australian authorities for strengthening regulations and protecting consumers. The thesis adopts a primarily doctrinal methodology to examine the academic literature, case law and the effectiveness of relevant current legislation. There is limited scholarly literature on the development of a regulatory framework for influencer marketing. To fill this gap, the thesis examines available practices in broader areas of the law such as advertising and social media that may be used to govern influencer marketing. Through this research, I aim to contribute to the development of clear standards for influencer marketing to protect online consumers from unethical conduct.