Former Real Housewives of New York Bethenny Frankel is suing TikTok

Former Real Housewives of New York Bethenny Frankel is suing TikTok
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A well-known online influencer and reality TV star filed a lawsuit against TikTok on Thursday, claiming the platform failed to crack down on fraudulent ads using her videos to promote fake products.

Bethenny Frankel, who has over 990,000 followers on TikTok and appeared on the Bravo television series The Real Housewives of New York, He said he was on TikTok in September. 16 when many of her followers started asking about an ad they saw featuring her cheap knockoff designer cardigan.

But Frankel said he never agreed to promote the knockoff cardigan, as he claims in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Instead, he said, a fraudster took a video of himself talking about a different cardigan in an earlier video and edited it to make it look like he was endorsing the knockoff. Frankel immediately posted a TikTok video alerting his followers to the fake ad and reported the ad through TikTok’s content flagging system, according to the lawsuit, which was summarized by The Washington Post. Within minutes, his video of the incident was deleted for violence.

Frankel is now seeking damages from TikTok for the damage the fake ad has done to his brand, and wants the company to agree to better protect the creator’s likeness.

Frankel said in an interview: “First of all, whether it’s an act, whether it’s a law, whether it’s a process, whether it’s a change that protects the creators of content.” “TikTok must strive to protect creators and consumers. There are people who bought these products with me after seeing these ads.”

TikTok said it takes allegations of copyright and intellectual property violations very seriously and offers several portals where users can flag content that violates the platform’s guidelines. TikTok spokesperson Ashley Nash-Hahn said: “We have strict policies to both protect people’s hard-earned intellectual property and keep inappropriate content off TikTok. “We regularly review and improve our policies and processes to combat increasingly sophisticated fraud attempts and to further strengthen our systems.”

Using video creators like Frankel to sell products online has become a big industry in recent years, and influencer marketing spending is expected to reach nearly $16.4 billion by the end of this year, according to industry analysts. Influencer Marketing Hub. This market is likely to grow by more than 33 percent annually between 2022 and 2030. According to Grand View Researchbusiness consulting company.

But this growth hasn’t been accompanied by a similar development of guidelines and rules for how to use influencer images, and abuse is common, according to creators.

Influencers’ reputations are built on maintaining trust with their followers. As more creators post content on TikTok, they say their videos are being used for spammy ads about weird products. According to creators, these ads aren’t just a nuisance — they can have big consequences for a creator’s business.

Frankel said TikTok has been inundated with messages for days after the fake ad was posted. “People said, ‘I thought you were sold.’ You’re ripping off these bad products,” he said. “It’s such a violation of me as a brand, as a media person. You can’t decide to use me as an advertisement every day.”

Vanessa Flaherty, president of influencer management firm Digital Brand Architects, said such abuse can hurt a creator’s business. “Creator value is how they recommend products and what brands they stand behind,” he said. “If it’s taken out of context and applied to a brand that they don’t endorse and have never wanted or wanted to support, it puts their credibility at risk.”

Spam ads can also have legal consequences for creators. Often, content creators sign exclusive deals with brands in specific categories. Flaherty said an ad promoting a competitor’s product could violate a contract with a brand they partnered with, even if their likeness was used illegally.

Cracking down on these fake ads has been a struggle for influencers and brands alike. In his suit, Frankel asks that TikTok create a way for influencers to flag them internally so they can quickly remove unauthorized ads.

A representative for clothing brand Jenny Kayne said the company contacted TikTok in mid-September to report fake product ads, including Frankel’s. Jenni Kayne’s representatives provided TikTok with a trademark certificate, links to offending ads and screenshots from a third-party site, along with an official report. However, the company said the ads have not been removed for at least 10 days.

“We had over 20 emails begging them,” said Alexa Ritacco, Jenni Kayne’s chief marketing officer. “TikTok took too long to respond. It was so obvious that they had no protocol for this. “Every day we received hundreds of direct messages about fake ads.”

“Users can report in-app content and raise concerns about copyright or trademark infringement through our website,” TikTok spokesperson Nash-Hahn said. “Ad content undergoes multiple levels of review before approval, and we have measures in place to detect and remove fraudulent or infringing ads.”

Still, some ads slip through the cracks, and creators have turned to TikTok themselves to deliver the message to viewers.

TikTok creator and online marketplace founder Lindsay Albanese “I can’t believe I’m saying this” TheFileist.comhe said in a TikTok video to his 656,000 followers in late September. “But if you see an ad out there where I want to sell bras, it’s a scam. They took my TikTok video… and edited it like I was talking about their bra.”

He said attempts to report the problem to TikTok were unsuccessful and that the fake ad was damaging his brand. “This is so infuriating,” he said on TikTok. “I don’t know if these products are ethically produced or if this company follows labor laws and fair wages.”

Frankel’s lawsuit alleges that TikTok has not mitigated these problems because it profits from sales made through fake ads. The lawsuit alleges that TikTok generates revenue through ads and that fraudsters are abusing influencers’ likenesses to pay the company to advertise their fake goods.

“While the platform is not an e-commerce site, it facilitates and promotes the sale of products,” Frankel’s summary of the complaint states. “Promoting products, especially fake products, garners millions of views and encourages TikTok to increase its revenue stream by allowing fake products to be presented to users.”

“They’re using us to sell products, these fake companies,” Albanese said. “The situation will only get worse until the social media platforms start to collapse rapidly. I need to email TikTok and tell them it’s not me and delete it immediately.”

From July 2021 to December 2021, TikTok received 49,821 global copyright takedown notices and successfully resolved 40,469 takedown requests, or 81.2 percent, by removing infringing content, Nash-Hahn said.

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission immediate effectors Platforms like Instagram and Twitter have since developed tools to make partnerships between brands and creators more visible to viewers. However, since most influencer marketing deals are negotiated outside the purview of tech platforms, apps like TikTok don’t know which deals are fake.

Some influencers to make matters worse fake sponsored content, promoting brands as if they have a partnership, enhancing their image. While most brands are OK with free advertising, many luxury brands are not.

Frankel said a lot of this could be resolved if platforms like TikTok had a clearer way to resolve issues between brands and creators. Influencers need to be able to work with platforms to maintain control of their image on the app, he said, while brands need to be able to spot fake ads or fake products. “I want to be a voice for change in this space,” he said. “I have a platform, I have influence, and I want to make a difference on a bigger scale.” He set up an email address for similarly affected creators to join his suit.

There is bipartisan agreement in Congress that something needs to be done. On Wednesday, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.) have introduced legislation to combat the sale of counterfeit products online. The Integrity, Notice and Fairness in Online Retail Markets for Consumers (Information Consumers) Act requires online platforms to collect, verify and disclose certain information from third-party vendors.

Jessica Rich, former director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, said lawmakers are increasingly interested in holding platforms accountable for the ads and content they post. He pointed to the INFORM act and the renewal act Article 230, a legal provision that protects websites from liability for third-party postings. “The fact that you have so many proposals in Congress to hold platforms accountable for the content on their sites tells you that this issue is not being adequately addressed under current law,” he said.

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