FTC to Regulate Blogs and Social Media?

To Crack Down on False Promotion

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The Federal Trade Commission plans to begin regulating blogs and social media. While they’re getting tougher on results-based advertising, they are also looking at going after blogs and social media users who portray products they’re promoting in a less than accurate light. AdAge explains:

As part of its review of its advertising guidelines, the FTC is proposing that word-of-mouth marketers and bloggers, as well as people on social-media sites such as Facebook, be held liable for any false statements they make about a product they’re promoting, along with the product’s marketer. This could present a significant issue for marketers, including the likes of Microsoft, Ford and Pepsi, who spend billions on word-of-mouth and social media. PQ Media projects that marketers will spend $3.7 billion on word-of-mouth marketing in 2011.

And the blogosphere reacts…

Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim: "Regardless of what side of the political fence you are on it’s starting to get a bit scary as to just how much the government wants to be the overseer of everything."

Les at My Radical Blogs: The next question is what will the FTC do to those bloggers that do write paid reviews? Will they prosecute and turn them into criminals? That is fine if you are based in the US. What if your based in Britain, Europe or Australia – will the law cross borders?

Peter Da Vanzo at SEOBook lays out what social media marketers need to beware of if the FTC’s plan goes into effect. For one, check claims that appear "outrageous" and make sure there are studies to back them up.

Here’s a glimpse at what Twitterers are saying:

Tweeting on the FTC

"The commission is attempting to update guidelines that are 30 years old so that they address current marketing techniques, and in particular to address the issue of whether or not the safe harbor that’s currently allowed for ‘result not typical’-type disclaimers is still warranted," says Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s advertising practices division (via AdAge).

There seems to be a mixture of paranoia and praise throughout the web. On the one hand, people feel that the Internet should not be regulated in this regard, but others view the whole thing as a positive way to weed out "sleazy" practices. What are your thoughts? Tell us.

FTC to Regulate Blogs and Social Media?
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  • http://thoughtsabout.info Math D.

    If FTC continues to pursue this regulation, it’s going to be a “herculean job.” Can they regulate the entire blogosphere and social media online and cross boarders when they have to? If they are really serious about this then, these businesses doing the marketing strategies are also dead serious with what they do (which FTC thinks to be leading some consumers astray) will just continue to come up with other ideas that would keep them alive.

    What is striking about this is that with FTC doing this action, it seems that FTC is ripping off the bloggers and most of all the people doing something online (which most of them doing blogging and stuff at home) as legal and as decent as they can just to get a heap out of small advertisers’ pay for some sponsored conversations a big deal (when in fact most payments for bloggers are just hefty handful dollars enough to buy bottle of Pepsi!).

    People have their own minds and freedom to chose what they want. These small people they want to go after are just trying to do something productive, bloggers don’t just blog and write. They also think. They work hard to get readers and work double just to get ranks, loyal followers and most of all, THEY BUILD TRUST from their readers so they can have them as loyal followers and comeback to their site/blog as if it was their own home.

    Bloggers with successful blogs are not born overnight. They are created. They get these advertisers to pay them because they have created an audience that listens and trust them. These are real word-of-mouth advertising. A blogger cannot have an advertiser or even a reader if they don’t provide quality content the same as products on the market that have good quality can have as many buyers.

    As mentioned, people have their own minds and freewill, they can choose not to believe a blogger or any other person, a product or a service if they are in doubt or else if they don’t want to. Like any other content writer, journalist, or newsmen, bloggers are harbingers of information. Information cannot always be perfect nor 100% accurate. Persuasion is part of marketing and consumers can respond only in two ways–a yes or a no. If FTC runs after the blogosphere and the social-media world, then, they also have to go after the big guys because once in for all, in reality, only a very tiny portion of revenues earned from ads are taken in by bloggers and not millions.

  • http://www.DailyScoff.com J. Gravelle

    “Caveat Emptor”

    How many useless bureaucrats (pardon THAT redundancy) would be pounding the pavement today (looking for HONEST work) if we distilled the entire commercial code down to that succinct phrase?


  • http://blog.ourchurch.com Paul Steinbrueck

    I think it’s silly that the FTC thinks it has to get involved. But, I also think people are going way overboard in their response.

    The FTC wants to put the kibosh on blogs making “false statements” when marketing products and services. There’s no reason to freak out. Just don’t lie.

    • Guest

      Do you really think they’ll be entirely fair? Do you not think they’ll support the extremist articles that support their point of view? Do you think they wont use this as an avenue to attack any article that speaks even remotely bad about their policies?

      They are trying to restrict your right to an opinion.

  • http://www.jitweb.com Karen D. Hill

    Blogging is always under scrutiny. That is why I believe that the FTC isn’t bringing anything new to the table in association with regulation of social media.

    If someone publishes something that is untrue, the public usually “calls them out” on it. There are many online resources that consumers use to expose false advertising.

    There is nothing more potent than consumer opinion. It is more powerful than the FTC. The threat of “legal” action is far less damaging to a website, blogger or ad campaign than the ability of the masses to verbally put down an obvious scam or inferior product.

    Power to the people ;-) (Thanks, John Lennon!)


  • http://twitter.com/1samadams Sam Adams

    Good luck with that FTC

    First, they’ve got bigger fish to fry and less reason to expand their or governmental power over first amendment rights – and there’s plenty of precedents already in the real world over liability, slander and libel as applicable to the Internet. I am not a lawyer but I am sure a smart one could make the case without the need for more regulation.

    Second, how the heck do they propose regulating international bloggers? Can they reasonably expect to extend their power even further globally in that case? Again, lots of other things they should be chasing down.

    This is in a similar vein to net neutrality.

    Perhaps a well intentioned idea, but I don’t see it gaining traction, or at least not getting enough momentum before it runs into the unmovable opposition.

  • http://www.plasticprinters.com/plasticbusinesscards/ Anthony Proulx

    Internet is beyond America’s I’m in charge, you do as I want policy!

    America doesn’t own the internet, shouldn’t try to police the world, or control other countries.

    America srsly! Go over yourselfs!


  • http://TourVOD.com Brenda

    I can tell you one thing the FTC should be regulating, but doesn’t or isn’t or just turns a blind eye to. It’s the Sunday morning preachers on TV (especially in Florida) who tell my elderly parents and grandparents to send in their $1000.00 of “SEED” money to them so that they may “Plant a seed for you that will grow and come back 10 times over!”, what BS, how could we allow these thieves wearing $2000.00 suits and diamond rings to prey on our elderly like this? It truly makes me sick to hear them using God to steal money from the people who need to save it for themselves the most.

    Federal Government and the FTC, shame on you. Wake up, you have more than enough thieves right here to go after. Talk about False advertising!! Pffttt…

  • Guest

    Now, that’s great. Most of you morons voted for Obama, the communist. Now it is time to pay.

  • Guest

    this is meant to go after the acai berry, colon cleansing and teeth whitening “blogs”. duh.

  • http://blogs.catapultsystems.com/rnellis Robert Nellis – Social Media Consultant

    That would be an interesting fight. I think the FTC will lose that one.

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