Roblox having brand deals isn’t something that’s particularly new (though it has resulted in some unique digital activity), but one watchdog group is putting the game’s developers on blast over what it calls “deceptive advertising” – even taking the matter to the Federal Trade Commission.
Truth in Advertising (TINA), a nonprofit group that’s self-described purpose is to “[empower] consumers to protect themselves and one another against false advertising and deceptive marketing,” accuses Roblox, influencers, and a multitude of companies of surreptitiously pushing advertisements in front of millions, most of whom are too young to know what’s a game and what’s an ad, according to the org.
“The brands Roblox has invited into its metaverse, […] along with undisclosed avatar brand influencers and AI-controlled brand bots are running roughshod on the platform, manipulating and exploiting consumers, including its most vulnerable players – more than 25 million children.”
The announcement continues on to call out the game’s own community standards, which dictate that ads may not contain content intended for users under the age of 13, followed by several visual examples of how well hidden the so-called “advergames” are among the list of “experiences” on the platform. It also points to events in other games that hosted sponsored content without specifically stating it was sponsored content, and accuses the game of letting paid brand influencers, AI bots, and members of its Roblox Video Stars content creator program of foisting advertising on players in-game without proper notification.
Finally, TINA points out Roblox’s penchant for stating creators can make money making experiences on the platform while also making player creations getting noticed nearly insurmountable, which leads creators to buy likes to increase visibility – something the developers don’t allow but also don’t adequately monitor or prevent.
This has ultimately lead TINA to file an official complaint to the FTC this past Tuesday, asking for the government body to act. “The FTC has long recognized a need to protect children and teens from digital deception. Unfortunately, little has been done, and legislative efforts to stop manipulative online marketing that threatens children and teens have not yet come to fruition,” reads part of the complaint. “Twenty-five million children cannot afford to continue waiting for action.”