Roblox ‘exploits’ users with misleading ads

Advertising in the metaverse is difficult. Truth in Advertising, a nonprofit that aims to protect consumers from “misleading advertising and fraudulent marketing,” filed a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday saying Roblox “completely avoided on responsibility ”by complying with children’s platform advertising laws. games.

The full complaint names several large U.S.-based companies, including Netflix, Nike, Hasbro and Mattel, as companies with platform games that use deceptive marketing techniques.

Roblox is a game and “metaverse” platform primarily aimed at children. Many games, where Roblox Corp. so -called “experiences”, created by the users of the platform, not by the company itself. However, over the past few years, more and more large companies have started using Roblox games to advertise their products. Hasbro released a Nerf Gun shooter; Mattel is releasing an open-world Hot Wheels game; and most recently, Sega of America has partnered with a company to release a Sonic the Hedgehog game on the platform. In its complaint, Truth in Advertising claims that “advertising was secretly pushed to millions of unsuspecting Roblox users” because a “public company failed to establish meaningful safeguards to ensure compliance with the truth of the advertising laws on its platform ”.

The report extensively describes and lists various issues with Roblox’s advertising practices, but most of them are non -branded or undisclosed advertising in various forms. (Disclosed advertising, for example, occurs when an influencer uses the #ad on TikTok, which the platform requires users to include if the post is a paid promotion so they can comply with FTC guidelines.) Truth in Advertising says it can be difficult for kids to distinguish between what he calls “advergames”-games created to promote specific brands or products-and user-generated games. The report lists an example of finding Stranger Thingsthat the search results are unclear on the difference between paid Netflix games and fan-made ones.

According to the Roblox Community Guidelines, developers who place ads on their games “remain responsible for all advertising content” and must abide by the “Community Rules, Terms of Service, and all other Roblox Rules.”

Contacted to comment on the complaint, Roblox Corp. releases the following statement to Polygon:

Roblox is committed to ensuring that our users and developers have a positive and safe experience on our platform. We have strict guidelines for developers who want to promote or use ads in their experiences, including specific rules to protect users under 13, expectations that all developers follow. Community Standards that we strictly enforce, and do not allow fraud or scams. We have strict rules and monitoring processes aimed at combating content to exploit or deceive users. We are also making significant investments in new ways to allow creators to get paid for their efforts while ensuring that ad experiences are clear and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

The 44-page complaint from Truth in Advertising goes on to mention specific instances of fraudulent marketing practices that can occur at Roblox. For example, there are real players who serve as brand ambassadors for the virtual content of the platform and interact with users of Roblox games. The complaint lists Nike influencers who spent time with Roblox and “bought” Nike hardware and talked to people who played the Nike game, but did not “disclose the Nike hardware link” within Roblox.

In addition, the Advertising Truth report addresses the issue of “undisclosed” or untagged Roblox avatars engaging in promotional activities, such as the distribution or sale of in-game items. This can be used by any untagged NPC that sells in -game content, but the Report also points out that avatars inspired by artists, such as LeBron James, are used in promotional exchanges.

“Wherever discussions take place, advertisers must do their duty to ensure that the form, content and disclosure used by any influencer, at the very least, follows the law. Even in the metaverse, the companies are legally responsible for ensuring that consumers, regardless of age, know that what they are viewing or interacting with is a form of advertising, ”Truth in Advertising said.“ And even with transient nature of avatar influencers participating and speaking within the Roblox metaverse, no brand (including Roblox) is allowed to waive its legal obligation to disclose these endorsements. »

Source – Translation: Polygon

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