HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– It can be hard to tell the difference between paid reviews and “organic” content. As you shop for toys this holiday season, Senator Richard Blumenthal says the YouTube reviews your children are watching could really be ads.
7-year-old Ryan has more than 30 billion views on YouTube. In one video, he’s seen reviewing a fast food toy and meal.
Last year Ryan earned 22 million dollars for his YouTube toy reviews. But an independent study by the ad watchdog organization, Truth In Advertising, found that most of Ryan’s videos do not disclose a sponsorship.
“Deceptively promotes a multitude of products including ones sold by Walmart, Hardee’s, Playmobil, Matel and Hasbro to name a few,” said Laura Smith, Legal Director, Truth In Advertising.
The Federal Trade Commission Act prevents hidden advertising and undisclosed sponsorship.
“This is a widespread issue and every effort must be made to prevent further harm,” said Smith.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal says YouTubers like Ryan are in violation of FTC law.
“There is a distinct difference between this kind of marketing and actual organic content,” said Blumenthal.
Blumenthal wrote a letter Friday calling on the FTC to investigate so-called Kidfluencers.
“This gold rush has attracted a bunch of predators who aim their ads at kids without disclosing that they are paid,” said Blumenthal.
Studies show that kids under 5 may typically can’t decipher between ads and the truth. Blumenthal says parents should be on alert this holiday season to ensure children aren’t being targeted without realizing it
“At this time of year, parents who receive these very passionate requests from their kids for specific toys may discover it’s the result of paid endorsements,” said Blumenthal.
News 8 emailed Ryan’s World to see if they have a reaction to the senator’s claims but have not heard back.