Billed as "the cultural experience of the decade," and with tickets costing between $1,500 and $250,000, Fyre Festival generated much of its interest thanks to being promoted by models such as Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid and Elsa Hosk on Instagram. Attendees assumed they would be on the gorgeous beaches of Exuma rubbing shoulders with these and other celebrities, including members of Kanye West's G.O.O.D Music label like Desiigner, Pusha T and Tyga. But that simply wasn't the reality of Fyre Festival. Pop punks Blink 182 may have gotten whiff of the event's shortcomings. The group was scheduled as a headliner, but pulled out at the last minute, saying, "We're not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give our fans."
One of the many, many problems is that social-media influencers like Jenner, Ratajkowski, Hadid and Hosk never disclosed they were paid to promote the festival. Their posts seemed to be implying that concertgoers would at least be breathing the same air in the Bahamas, even if not interacting with them. Kendall Jenner, for example, reportedly received $250,000 from Fyre Festival organizers to endorse the event on her account, although she never disclosed in her now-deleted post that it was an advertisement. Neither did her fellow influencers. You could argue that their nearly 110 million followers combined should take their posts with a grain of salt, but Jenner and the others should also do their due diligence and be completely transparent. The power of their reach is simply undeniable.
In Chelsea Chinery, Shannon McAuliffe and Desiree Flores v. McFarland et al., a lawsuit filed against Fyre Festival organizers on May 2nd in Los Angeles, the plaintiffs are going after McFarland and Ja Rule for breach of contract, negligence and fraud. And while there's no mention of Jenner, Hadid or Ratajkowski by name, the lawsuit does reference the misleading posts by social-media influencers. John Girardi, the lawyer handling this particular case, told The Hollywood Reporter, "Social media 'influencers' made no attempt to disclose to consumers that they were being compensated for promoting the Fyre Festival."
With the rise of stealth shilling on social media, led in large part by Jenner's sister Kim Kardashian and other members of their family, the Federal Trade Commission has created clear-cut guidelines for influencers to follow. Based on the FTC Act, individuals who are paid to promote a product on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat must include #Ad or words like "Sponsored," "Promotion" and "Paid ad" in their posts. But that rarely ever happens, and the FTC is partially to blame for that. To date, the commission has yet to bring a case against any individual influencer, instead choosing to focus on the brands that are paying for the endorsements. And until the FTC makes an example out of one of these celebrities, chances are they won't change their ways.
The FTC has taken some steps toward that recently, though. Last month, it sent letters to more than 90 influencers who have been violating its guidelines, including Ratajkowski, reminding them they must be clear and conspicuous about disclosing paid endorsements on social media. Interestingly enough, members of the Kardashian/Jenner family were not among those who received a letter. A spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment for this story, noting that the commission "does not comment on individuals, companies or specific events."