Oops! MrBeast's Amazing Birthday Giveaway Might Be Amazingly Illegal

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  • YouTuber MrBeast is known for his elaborate stunts and cash giveaways.

  • His latest involved an Instagram post instructing people to share his celebratory birthday message for a chance to win money.

  • But as one lawyer pointed out, the giveaway actually violates Instagram's TOS and some state laws.

MrBeast, real name Jimmy Donaldson, is a content creator, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. Since starting his YouTube channel at the age of 13 in 2012, Donaldson has gone on to become one of the most popular and successful creators on the platform. Incorporating childhood friends into his team, MrBeast is known for elaborate stunts, robust (if at times controversial) charity efforts, and the giving away of large sums of money to random and often unsuspecting fans. Like so:

But high viewership numbers also invite heavy scrutiny and heavy backlash. Qualms have been raised about MrBeast's intentions, his questionable effectiveness, and the unintended consequences of his giving. In response to these critiques, his most vocal supporters, comprised in no small part of young internet users (he has won "Favorite Male Creator" at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards two years running, after all), will often declare those who deign to report on this scrutiny "MrBeast haters."

And folks, this is where I come to you all, hat in hand, to acknowledge that when I first reported on MrBeast's gift of a car possibly being taxable income, I may have indeed been a "MrBeast hater." While it can be hard to imagine from a quick glance at the article, titled "This Guy Again," my opinion of MrBeast, whose content I had only seen in passing, was not the most favorable, and discovering the real-world consequences of his stunts performed for content felt like vindication of the skepticism around this viral sensation.

But reader, I've changed. It's true. Say what you will about our modern-day emphasis on virality as cultural currency, but the guy paid for people to have life-changing surgeries. He got a bunch of shelter dogs forever homes. And when faced with a situation where others would have abandoned a friend to "protect the brand, MrBeast opted to be vocal in his support. So I'm pro-MrBeast now. I've watched the videos. I've got favorites of the ancillary cast: Chris and Karl, for the record (Karl's a star, and they know it). I've sampled his Feastables candy, including the new Karl Gummies (I told you, he's a star, and they know it). And did you know he's got a burger chain? I sure do, because I'm eating it as I write this:

a mrbeast burger, partly unwrapped, poking out of a red fast food box emblazoned with the mrbeast logo, next to an opened box of similar style, filled with crinkle cut fries, on a brown folding table, in a room that, you can't really tell from the picture, but could probably use a good vacuuming
Sincere enjoyment? Or serious commitment to the bit on my part? You decideMichael Natale - Hearst Owned

So it is with a heavy heart that this certified non-MrBeast hater must report that MrBeast may have broken the law with his latest stunt.

To commemorate his recent 25th birthday—MrBeast is 25, by the way—he took to Instagram showing himself seating with, what else, a briefcase full of money. Money he was offering to give to five followers. $50,000 total, $10,000 a piece, to be awarded in 72 hours after the post went live. All one had to do to win was share the post on their own Instagram story, and tag a friend. Simple enough.

So why did MrBeast apparently delete the Instagram post, before that 72-hour deadline?

For the possible answer, we turn to a Twitter thread by user @RobertFreundLaw, a "lawyer for brands, agencies, and creators." Freund uses his thread, posted before the offending Instagram post was deleted, to lay out how MrBeast's giveaway "appears to violate Instagram's TOS and might violate state laws."

"First, Instagram's TOS. Instagram requires that you include "a complete release of Instagram by each entrant" and an "acknowledgement that the promotion is no way ... associated with Instagram." Mr. Beast's post does not include such a release or acknowledgment."

Violating Instagram's terms of service could be grounds for an account's termination, though Freund doesn't think MrBeast will suffer anything quite so severe from the service. Instagram, after all, benefits from MrBeast's continued usage, so any consequences from the platform would be light.

But his Instagram post also appears to violate California state law, which "requires that you create official rules and prominently identify them in all promotional materials," which the post did not do.

"Under CA law, those official rules must list, among other things: the name of the giveaway operator, any eligibility requirements, an all-caps statement that no purchase is necessary, methods of entry, and any limits on number of entries. Mr. Beast's post includes none of this."

Freund continues his thread explaining how the post also violates Florida state law, and why MrBeast originally swiftly commented on the post "Excluding the state of NY," before Freund ultimately notes, "The bottom line: it's not especially complicated to comply with sweepstakes laws, but it is important to know the rules and the risks. Think through the issues and plan your giveaway for success, so you can avoid any potential liability while you grow your brand."

"This is not a 'hater' post." Freund says in the concluding tweet of his threat. "I don't view oversight or ignorance of giveaway procedural rules as a moral failing."

And as we've established at the start, this article is not a "hater" article, either. So, passionate MrBeast fans, don't flood my inbox decrying me as a hater. I am a fan. I am, to use the parlance of the youth, MrBeast-pilled. I'd happily hang with MrBeast, and Chris, and of course, Karl (the guy just has star-power, what can I say?).

But if you're going to be as big a brand as you are, MrBeast, you've got to be more careful where the law is concerned. You've got your team down in North Carolina, maybe just add another legal consultant or two to the roster. Otherwise, your next "I Spent _______ Hours In A Prison" video may not be one where you get to decide how long you stay there for.

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