Mike Bloomberg’s Odd Meme Blitz Spurs Instagram to Require Influencers to Disclose Paid Political Content

Todd Spangler

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A new paid meme campaign on Instagram by billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who’s running a guerrilla bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has prompted Facebook to clarify that influencers on the platform must disclose such arrangements.

This week, Bloomberg’s presidential campaign launched a broad campaign across at least 19 top Instagram accounts with a collective audience of over 60 million followers, including @WhitePeopleHumor, @ShitheadSteve, @adam.the.creator and @fuckjerry, in a deal with a collective called the Meme 2020 (run by the CEO of Jerry Media), The New York Times reported. The campaign, aimed at burnishing Bloomberg’s image among milennials, has a meta conceit: The posts consist of purported direct messages from Mayor Mike to the Instagrammers soliciting help to create memes.

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“Can you post a meme letting everyone know I’m the cool candidate?” reads the DM from “Bloomberg” to the @fuckjerry account. “Ooof that will cost like a billion dollars,” the account responds. “What’s your Venmo?” says “Mike.”

Facebook on Friday said that type of sponsored political content is OK — clarifying that users must label it accordingly. The social giant already requires disclosure of paid branded content rules by Facebook and Instagram influencers under FTC rules.

“We’re allowing U.S.-based political candidates to work with creators to run this content, provided the political candidates are authorized and the creators disclose any paid partnerships through our branded content tools,” a Facebook rep said in a statement. The spokesperson added, “Branded content is different from advertising, but in either case we believe it’s important people know when they’re seeing paid content on our platforms.”

The posts paid for by Bloomberg did include disclosures, like this one from popular meme account @FuckJerry (14.9 million followers), which has over 400,000 likes since it was posted Thursday. “He does look pretty cool (and yes this is really #sponsored by @mikebloomberg),” the post’s caption reads.

In a statement, a 2020 Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said, “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation.”

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