Nonprofit consumer-advocacy group Travelers United is suing social media influencer Cassandra De Pecol over what it claims is "misleading and deceptive advertising."
In the lawsuit, Travelers United alleges De Pecol falsely claimed to be the first woman to travel to every country in the world while other women have proven they did it before De Pecol.
"Travelers United is taking a stand against deceptive advertising on social media," Travelers United counsel Lauren Wolfe said in a statement. "It is a violation of the law when influencers make up claims to grow their follower count. Additionally, it violates the law for influencers to push products and promote brands without disclosing they are being paid to do so. The toxic culture of undisclosed advertising and fake claims by influencers needs to end."
The lawsuit states, "Cassandra De Pecol is the first Instagram influencer to claim that she is the first woman to travel to every country. Her logic seems to come from the idea, 'If a tree falls in a forest but it wasn't captured on Instagram with someone with hundreds of thousands of followers, did it happen?'
"Travelers United asserts that there is a world beyond Instagram with incredible travel accomplishments. Just because something did not happen on Instagram, it does not mean that it did not happen."
The lawsuit gives several examples of women who have been recognized as visiting every country in the world before De Pecol.
Additionally, Travelers United claims in the lawsuit that De Pecol "very rarely discloses that she is being paid to advertise for certain brands" in posts on social media or in hotel reviews.
The lawsuit further claims wrote five-star reviews for her own book without disclosing she was the party writing the reviews, and that she "claims to have affiliations she does not actually have" to gain more followers on social media.
Travelers United has requested the court restrain De Pecol from conduct in violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA); stop advertising without disclosing that she is advertising; stop claiming she has been the first woman to travel to every country; correct Instagram posts and TikTok videos that allegedly contain undisclosed advertisement; pay damages to Travelers United for each CPPA violation; pay punitive damages; and award Travelers United legal costs.
The lawsuit, filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, was also filed against De Pecol's company, Expedition 196.
An effort to get a comment from De Pecol was unsuccessful.