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Under the Influence: Media Liability in the Age of Social Media

More and more content is being created by social media influencers, many of whom are unaware of the extent of their liability exposure.
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under the influence: media liability in the age of social media

In a world where almost every person has a smartphone or is connecting to social media through some means or another, social media influencers are making their mark and becoming more and more ubiquitous.

While traditional content is created by journalists, broadcasters and publishers, today an increasing amount of content is being created by social media influencers, such as YouTubers and high-profile public figures like sports stars and gamers. From blogging to podcasting, the media world as we know it is evolving—and the insurance world is taking notice of these content creators.

“We have seen significant growth in the blogging and social influencing spaces," says Sarah Lamberg, technology, cyber and media liability underwriter at Beazley. “Social influencers continue to shape brand perception and to challenge traditional means of reaching audiences."

With content being created in people's homes, on vacation and everywhere in between, artists are delivering content to the consumer in different ways. “These new risks have the potential for growth," says Regina Williams, vice president of media liability, OneBeacon.

But while artists create content on an ad hoc basis, few are aware of the risks attached to it. “Traditional publishers and brands are not necessarily aware of the extent of these new exposures, nor are individual influencers and freelancers fully aware of the shift in liability," Lamberg says.

Recognizing the need for coverage for influencers, some insurers have taken heed and offer public figure and influencer coverage, which includes defamation, breach of advertising and intellectual property infringement. An unsubstantiated statement or off-the-cuff comment has the potential to reach significant figures in defamation and indemnity payments—and often, influencers are in the dark on how complex the liability issue can be.

Many people may be unaware of just how prominent influencers have become over the past number of years, and in particular, over the past number of months. Brands have always used celebrities to sell their products by having them wear and promote their products in some way. But today, brands have partially moved away from celebrities and more in the direction of non-celebrities who have large social media followers.

Nearly three in four (74%) of marketers are planning to work with influencers post-pandemic, according to a recent survey carried out by Linqia. And this rings true with research showing 67% of marketers having a reduced overall digital budget with only 41% showing a decline in their influencer budget.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube continue to be the most popular social media platforms and those where consumers are going to find out about new products, according to a survey carried out by Buzzstream. “Podcasting has also become wildly popular but given its relatively new status as a content distribution space, contractual requirements are not yet standardized," Lamberg says.

Emerging platforms including aggregator sites such as Google News and Amazon that gather content from numerous sources, mom bloggers and beauty influencers carry both traditional and expanded media exposures.

By working with carrier partners, agents and brokers can bring expertise and service to their clients' insurance portfolios. Agents have the ability to embrace the shift in the media liability space that has been happening over the past number of years, but particularly noticeable over the past few months.

“Just remember anyone creating content has a media exposure. Whether or not they are publishing, writing music, creating productions to be aired, broadcasting or distributing content," Williams says. 

Olivia Overman is IA content editor.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Professional Liability