If it’s too good to be true it probably is – a sentiment that still very much applies to YouTube’s resident charity porn star, MrBeast.
On Sunday, May 7, MrBeast – the username of 25-year-old Jimmy Donaldson — took a break from his busy schedule of pissing off deaf people and boldly proclaiming that "homeless people don't care if I use them for views," to ring in his birthday in the most MrBeast way imaginable – dangling large sums of cash in front of his followers.
“It's my birthday, so I'm giving away $50,000 to 5 followers! ($10,000 each!),” Donaldson captioned his viral snap, one depicting him flashing his signature Kindergartener-on-picture-day grin while posing with an open, cash-filled briefcase, a not-so-tasteful smattering of bills coating every flat surface within a 12-foot radius.
(1)— G! (@GHunter9856) May 10, 2023
Earlier this week, @MrBeast announced a giveaway on Instagram that offered a chance to win $10,000 to those who reposted a certain photo on their story. Keeping that in mind, here is my entry https://t.co/ZYnnewf8zt pic.twitter.com/kUjb9II3IV
“All you have to do is share this to your story and tag someone in the comments” he continued in the post, taking strategic care to note that he “can’t dm you the money” if you don’t follow him.
Garnering more than 13 million likes and story posts from pretty much every annoying kid we knew in high school, it seems not everyone was on board with Donaldson’s birthday celebration – namely, California-based business litigator, Robert S. Freund.
On Monday, May 8, Freund took to Twitter with a lengthy thread detailing the myriad of ways the YouTuber’s giveaway “appears to violate Instagram's TOS and might violate state laws.”
This is how Mr. Beast's giveaway appears to violate Instagram's TOS and might violate state laws.— Rob Freund (@RobertFreundLaw) May 8, 2023
A quick thread. pic.twitter.com/T8gshvJ2wM
With its lack of “a complete release of Instagram by each entrant" and an "acknowledgment that the promotion is no way ... associated with Instagram," Freund explained, quoting the platform’s legalese, Donaldson’s post appeared to stand at odds with these requirements, an omission possibly punishable by the almighty banhammer.
“Mr. Beast's post does not include such a release or acknowledgment,” he wrote, noting that “violating Instagram's TOS is grounds for account termination.” “It's unlikely that will happen to Mr. Beast for this reason, but why put your account in jeopardy?”
First, Instagram's TOS.— Rob Freund (@RobertFreundLaw) May 8, 2023
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.
Though Donaldson’s account remains active as of publication, Freund still might have been onto something. On Tuesday, May 9, hours after both Donaldson and Freund’s respective posts set the internet ablaze, Instagram ultimately opted to remove the original giveaway post. The specific reasons behind this decision remain unknown – mods work in mysterious ways – yet Donaldson remained undeterred by this stepback, still hellbent on giving away this set of five-figure prizes.
“Insta took my birthday post down, all good though we were saving names!” he wrote in a post shared to his story in the early house of Tuesday, May 9. “Tomorrow I’m gonna give 10 people $10,000 instead of 5. Love you all,” he concluded.
The Instagram overlords may just be the beginning of Donaldson’s troubles. Beyond pissing off Meta’s moderators, the wonky language of his post appeared to toe legal lines in several states – most notably, California.
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.— Rob Freund (@RobertFreundLaw) May 8, 2023
Mr. Beast's post includes none of this.
You might have noticed that Mr. Beast commented "Excluding the state of NY."— Rob Freund (@RobertFreundLaw) May 8, 2023
He likely did that because NY law requires registration and bonding in advance of any giveaway promotes consumer products and where the prize value exceeds $5,000.
Freund concluded his post with a message towards Donaldson’s notoriously rabid fans – his musings are most definitely “not a ‘hater’ post.”
“The bottom line: it's not especially complicated to comply with sweepstakes laws, but it is important to know the rules and the risks,” he wrote. “I don't view oversight or ignorance of giveaway procedural rules as a moral failing, but giveaways are popular tools for promotion, and lawsuits about them do happen, so it's worth knowing how to do them compliantly to protect your brand.”
MrBeast’s jail series – coming to a laptop near you … probably.