Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bloggers Must Disclose Payments, Freebies: FTC

The FTC announced on Monday that bloggers must disclose any freebies or payments they receive in the process of doing a review. In the past, I've done some reviews for companies, and they've allowed me to keep the products involved. This is what the FTC wants covered.

Naturally, the idea is that, given freebies or even money, a blogger might slant a review a little too much to the positive side. Additionally, the new FTC rules clarify that such sorts of reviews would, because of the monetary exchange, be considered an endorsement, rather than a review. The FTC said:
The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.
Additionally, the FTC addressed those ads you probably remember: ones where the advertiser says that "results aren't typical." The commission said advertisers featuring testimonials that claim dramatic results cannot hide those sorts of disclaimers.

The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines. The guidelines are not law themselves, but instead are interpretations of the law that aim to clarify regulations to advertisers. The rules go into effect Dec. 1st; violations of the rules could result in various sanctions including lawsuits.

While the FTC has already made it clear they would more likely go after advertisers, than bloggers, themselves, they added that they would be monitoring social networking sites such as Facebook as well. It's possible that a celebrity endorsement could wind up on their Facebook and MySpace page, thus the extension of the rules.

At the same time, it's hard to see how the FTC could possibly monitor all the blogs in existence, as well as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and the rest. In all likelihood, things will be hit-and-miss.
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