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Those videos about a foot fetish site going viral on TikTok? A lot of them are sponcon

Creators have claimed they made thousands of dollars posting on the site FeetFinder, sparking discussion over undisclosed ads on TikTok.
Photo illustration of women's feet in heels, bare on the floor, and elevated in exercise.
TikTok creators revealed that videos praising FeetFinder, a foot fetish site, were sponsored content.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News; Getty Images

Videos about the photo-selling website FeetFinder have popped up across TikTok in recent weeks, with many creators on the platform claiming they have made thousands of dollars by simply uploading pictures of their feet.

But a handful of creators are now revealing that the videos praising FeetFinder were actually sponsored by the fetish site.

“Why did I just make like $70 on this thing called FeetFinder?” Andy, a creator known as andierhoe said in a video posted on May 24. “If you have cute feet, put them on FeetFinder. FeetFinder’s where it’s at, because you’re getting paid for your feet.”

Five days later, Andy said that the post was sponsored, commenting #ad on the video. He didn't respond to request for comment.

The influx of videos promoting FeetFinder — and the posts questioning the videos that followed — has revealed the potential dangers of creators posting undisclosed sponsored content on TikTok. Some creators expressed concern that the ads misrepresented the reality of online sex work, and that the young audiences of those who promoted FeetFinder would be persuaded to pursue it without considering the risks involved. 

The slew of videos has also prompted discussion among creators about the brand deals they choose to accept.

FeetFinder said that creators were “instructed to disclose” that the videos promoting the site were ads.

“We suggested the influencers use hashtags like #ad or #sponsored” at the beginning of the caption along with adding the text *dramatization by paid actors* so all people viewing the tik tok knew they were ads,” FeetFinder founder and CEO Patrick Nielson said in an email. “Any influencers that posted a feet finder ad without these disclosures were suggested to remove/delete that video ASAP.”

But viral videos about the site still abound on TikTok, and it’s unclear whether they’re organically generated or sponsored by FeetFinder.

TikTok, which encourages creators to disclose partnerships in its branded content policy, did not respond to requests for comment.

In a video posted the same day as Andy’s, creator Cody Premer interviewed a woman who claimed that she had $40,000 in her bank account from uploading photos on FeetFinder. A day later, creator ayypatrick posted a video of himself and his girlfriend boarding a private jet, appearing to buy a luxury car and driving to an extravagant beachside mansion. He claimed that his girlfriend “got dummy rich from Feet Finder.” The couple known as tatyanddavon also posted a video promoting Feet Finder that same week, flexing a new watch and stacks of cash with the caption, “they love davons feet on feet finder.”

Commenters wondered if it was too good to be true. Some joked about dropping out of school to pursue a career in selling feet pictures. Several asked for advice.

But some said they had recently signed up but didn’t have luck making sales. Around the same time, adult film star noahwaybabe pointed out that FeetFinder charges sellers a monthly $4.99 fee to use the platform. He told users "...the customer is you, and anyone else who fell for it.”

The fee ensures that sellers are “serious about selling feet content,” the site says, and will be used to “create a much larger marketing budget to target potential Buyers on the internet.”

Undisclosed ads fly under the radar

The tag #ffsponsored — which is used in some videos promoting FeetFinder — has 3.8 million views on TikTok. But that tag doesn’t include the hundreds of videos appearing to promote the website that don’t disclose an advertising deal with the site; Premer’s video has 15 million views alone.

Influencers are responsible for disclosing any “material connection” to a brand they endorse on social media, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which can include a personal relationship, free products or payment for a social media shoutout. The FTC has filed complaints against companies and influencers who did not disclose that their endorsements were sponsored.

TikTok instructs creators to comply with “local laws or regulations” when posting branded content, and added a toggle feature last year that allows creators to clearly communicate when a post is an ad. The platform's branded content policy prohibits advertising a variety of industries and products, including "sexual products and services" like "adult entertainment and paraphernalia."

But undisclosed sponsored content continues to fly under the radar online, especially on TikTok. On influencer gossip forums, users complain that reviews of “viral” beauty products are inflated by undisclosed brand partnerships. Despite TikTok’s 2019 ban on political advertising, a 2021 Mozilla report found that influencers “across the political spectrum had undisclosed paid relationships with various political organizations in the U.S.”

Sofia Porzio, a photographer and lifestyle creator known online as Sofia Elizabeth, is among the creators who are calling out viral videos about FeetFinder as sponsored content.

Porzio told NBC News she was approached by FeetFinder via email about making sponsored posts for the site. NBC News reviewed a copy of the email, which asked Porzio to "just make something funny that can go viral and mention the company." The email promised "easy money" in exchange for the posts.

In an email sent to Ariella Elm, another creator, FeetFinder wrote, "The goal would be for you to create funny Tik Tok videos about how people can sell their feet pics for money on FeetFinder ... Many videos have gone 'viral' averaging over a million views and some top videos are getting 20 million +. We are hoping to get started on this ASAP."

In a stitched TikTok video responding to Premer’s video, Porzio said, "These influencers are being bought. Those videos you're seeing on your For You Page is not a sign for you to do FeetFinder. It is an ad."

Porzio said she was "offended" when she got the email because her content typically revolves around sustainable fashion and advocating for sexual assault survivors.

When she first received the email, Porzio said she blocked the sender and moved on. She was compelled to speak out about TikTok videos promoting the site once she started seeing "20 a week."

Promoting your own website "where you sell pictures of yourself" is perfectly fine, Porzio said, but she doesn't trust creators who encourage their viewers to start doing sex work with the promise of getting rich. She added that though it may seem innocuous, FeetFinder sellers are still catering to a fetish, and young people may be persuaded to create more explicit content without protecting themselves.

"It's a completely other thing when you're telling people who are young and impressionable to start their own business on the website," Porzio said. "And especially the fact that they're not disclosing that they were paid to tell people to start this, that is very, very wrong."

Porzio said she was immediately suspicious of the email she received from FeetFinder because it emphasized how "easy" making sponsored content would be.

"They say that we want a video to go viral. We want it to seem authentic and organic so that it can go viral, it's something that will be super easy," Porzio said. "And they keep using the word easy. Nothing is ever easy. A great deal shouldn't be super easy, especially when you're promoting something of that nature."

Misrepresenting the reality of the industry

Aside from being undisclosed ads, many of the viral FeetFinder videos also misrepresent the reality of selling feet pictures, according to people who actually sell feet pictures.

A simple YouTube search yields dozens of videos from people who pursued it and had varying levels of success.

The creator Debbie Dew Drop, for example, said she didn't make a sale for "six months straight" when she was first starting out. She told viewers that the extra cash she makes selling photos of her feet through Patreon has "helped tremendously," but it's not enough to ensure financial stability.

Jocey Potts, another seller who posts about her experience on YouTube, began selling feet pictures just to see if she could, as an “average middle-aged mom.” She said she made “$20 here or there,” and after posting a video about selling on chat sites like Omegle, FeetFinder asked her to review the site. In her final update about using FeetFinder, she criticized that the website pushed sellers to upload “hundreds of albums of content,” and if a seller didn’t pay the monthly subscription fee, they’d lose access to the albums they uploaded. FeetFinder’s YouTube channel suggests offering a “few different albums” with a “broad price range” to optimize sales, because buyers are more likely to purchase multiple lower-priced albums than expensive ones. 

"From that site my biggest takeaway was probably just that you MIGHT get out what you put in," Potts said. "I haven't heard of a single person getting tons of cash fast or without 'working it.' If you message people and really hassle [them] you might make sales, it's not a given. I think the site is well-intentioned but maybe poorly executed."

We can’t all be the Kim Kardashians of the foot industry."

-Jocey Potts, a foot picture seller and youtuber

Potts said she wanted to share an honest perspective of selling feet content on her YouTube channel so that hopeful sellers could manage their expectations.

"There are people in this world that are making bank at this," Potts said. "That has not been my reality, and it most likely won't be yours. I don't say that to be mean, but to give you a realistic expectation. We can't all be the Kim Kardashians of the foot industry."

Nielson, FeetFinder's founder and CEO, said the site's membership fee allows the company to pay for "top-notch security" to ensure that users' sensitive information stays private.

Sellers may not make a profit when they're starting out because they "don't feel comfortable promoting" links to their account on social media, he said, or because they "don't know what types of photos/videos work well."

"While we are aware most other sites are free to sign up, they often only work for Sellers with a large social media following or years of experience in the industry," Nielson said. "Our goal is to ensure whether you have 10 million followers or 10 followers on social media, you still have a chance to earn money. We want to give people around the world an opportunity to make money from their homes or on the move no matter their follower size or experience."

The ethics of choosing brand deals

The spike in videos promoting FeetFinder has sparked discussions about the brand deals that influencers choose to accept.

Anayka She, a creator and R&B artist with 1.2 million followers on TikTok, took down her sponsored video after her followers questioned the site.

"If you are a Black content creator right now, you know how it is to get brand deals," Anayka She said in her video. "One thing about me, I love my integrity ... I love my followers, I would never want to bring harm to y'all. So girl, don't download FeetFinder."

Ariella Elm, a creator who usually makes content about LGBTQ current events and political informational videos, said she was "kinda horrified" when FeetFinder approached her with a sponsorship offer. She said she turns down brand deals that don't align with her own ethics, but she understands why someone may need the income over "feeling morally good" about their partnerships.

"I know 'influencer' is a marketing term, you're literally influencing people to buy certain products," Elm said. "But to me it's about influencing how people see the world and respect other people. I'm able to be a role model, and part of that is being honest about the companies I work with."

She added that it's "OK to say no" to partnering with brands that creators wouldn't use themselves.

"That's the really scary part, sometimes it's not as black and white as 'Oh, this is an ad, isn't it?'"

sofia porzio, a creator known as sofia elizabeth

Porzio, who called out the undisclosed FeetFinder ads, still hasn't made sponsored content on her TikTok account because she still hasn't been approached by a brand that aligns with her morals. She said that she's especially careful with brands which she associates with because her audience tends to be younger, and was alarmed by FeetFinder's influencer marketing strategy because they "have a demographic in mind" by working with creators who have young audiences.

Even as an adult, Porzio said, she struggles to identify the difference between organic endorsements and sponsored content. She worries that a child would see the videos promoting FeetFinder, and plan to make "easy money" as soon as they turn 18.

"That's the really scary part, sometimes it's not as black and white as 'Oh, this is an ad, isn't it?'" Porzio continued. "Sometimes there's an in-between, and it's really hard to decode what is real and what isn't real."