Key Perspectives on the FTC Blogger Guidelines

From Bloggers, PayPerPost, a Lawyer, and the IAB

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An interesting development has occurred in the story of the controversial FTC guidelines for sponsored blogging/social media. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has called upon the FTC to rescind the blogger rules, and has questioned the constitutionality of them. As you may know, there have been a lot people calling them an infringement on free speech.

What are your thoughts on the FTC guidelines?
 Discuss here.

The IAB says the rules unfairly and unconstitutionally impose penalties on online media for practices in which offline media have engaged for decades. In an open letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Randall Rothenberg, the President and CEO of the IAB, called the FTC’s distinction between offline media and online media, "constitutionally dubious."

Randall Rothenberg"What concerns us the most in these revisions is that the Internet, the cheapest, most widely accessible communications medium ever invented, would have less freedom than other media," he said. "These revisions are punitive to the online world and unfairly distinquish between the same speech, based on the medium in which it is delivered. The practices have long been afforded strong First Amendment protections in traditional media outlets, but the Commission is saying that the same speech deserves fewer Constitutional protections online. I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide the invaluable content and services that have so transformed people’s lives."

Rothenberg’s letter can be read here in its entirety. The FTC’s guidelines are set to go into effect at the beginning of December.

WebProNews attended a keynote at the BlogWorld Expo this week, which dealt with the FTC’s forthcoming regulations. Among the speakers were Ted Murphy, CEO of the controversial IZEA, the company known for PayPerPost and sponsored tweeting, Wendy Piersall of Sparkplugging.com, Jennifer Leggio, a blogger for ZDNet and Lisa Rotkin, an attorney from LA. Interestingly, about 60% of people in the room were for sponsored tweets, with very few indicating that they were against it.

Rotkin says the guidelines clarify the definition of endorsement, and that the FTC believes it has to be authenticated. She says that the blogger is as much liable as the advertiser, although recent comments from the FTC indicate that they are more concerned with the advertisers. She notes that bloggers would have to disclose relationships, but points out that there’s a gray area in how to disclose.

There are also gray areas in what is actually considered to be a sponsored post. In the session, it was said that there are 8 forms:

1. Access
2. Incentive
3. Thank you
4. Product demo
5. Advertorial
6. Paid Reviews
7. Junket
8. Payola

Rotkin says that sponsored posts aren’t right for everyone, but in some cases they are appropriate. However, she believes that bloggers aren’t looking at the long term.

Piersall says that people are able to disclose very well, and there are consequences if they do it wrong. She notes that she has no control over people’s perceptions, whether she is being sponsored or not.

Murphy, who was wearing a shirt that said "I heart the FTC" said his company has been under a lot of attack because they monetize people.

Leggio says being a popular social media/blogger person is different than being a celebrity. She says sponsored blogging doesn’t help relationships. "Do you want a spokesmodel or a thought leader?" she asked.

The character limit of Twitter is a subject that is often brought up in the FTC regulations discussion. How do you disclose on Twitter? Jeremiah Owyang, who moderated the session, doesn’t think a hashtag like #ad is enough. Murphy thinks having "tools for disclosure" is the only way. It’s unclear what these tools are exactly.

WebProNews reporter Abby Johnson contributed to this report from BlogWorld.

Do you think paid tweeting is a good idea? Share your thoughts.


Key Perspectives on the FTC Blogger Guidelines
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  • http://deck-boards.com Franklin

    Seriously, if your looking to puchase some high end product, are you going to do your research on twitter?
    If you’ve got the money to buy anything you’d like are you going to sign up for a spammer on twitter:
    Oh let me see what the Lamborghini dealer has to say in messages that are 140 characters or less, delivered to my cell phone on whatever schedule he wants? Because I want to receive “coupons” special offers and here him tout how Lamborghinis are the best over and over again.
    1- there aren’t coupons for high end products.
    2-high end purchasers don’t care about specials
    3-High end purchasers already know the benefits of a Lambo and
    4-We except you to think Lambo’s are best because you sell Lambos.
    Why would they want to hear anything you have to say on twitter.
    A high quality site with lots of pictures and high quality info so that they can learn:
    1-What makes Lambos the best
    2-Damn they look good
    3-They can get info they want without some spammer or aggressive sales dude up their butt.

    (no we are not a Lamborghini dealer, but that the same kind of business focus and the same crowd)

    We might pay bloggers to write for us if they are passing link juice to our sites and are saying positive things and were knowledgeable about our specific and rare product of which there aren’t very many ppl , but with the risk of recent FCC actions (which we support), we’d rather just have a text link that passes lots o link juice and say what we have to say about our product.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/dame+scribe Gin

    I think it would be best to consult with the Blogosphere first and address their concerns rather then come through the door making announcements’ This is how it’s going to be!’. I understand the need for transparency but adding a punishment? that sort of hefty fine should be applied to the online content thieves.

    @Franklin, As for ‘Link Juice’ that’s a two way street. :) Bloggers actively promote their work and getting one item in exchange for a honest review and a link is good business for both parties. Traffic is continuous (good bloggers) and should be appreciated rather than criticised.

    • Franklin

      . . . Bloggers actively promote their work and getting one item in exchange for a honest review . . . Except that most of them aren’t honest reviews, lots are outright lies, like the “posting links on Google” ones. And it’s seems your version of honest is a little askew. If you receive compensation for it, it’s NOT honest (it’s advert), even more dishonest when you don’t clearly mark it as such.

      I’m sorry to call you out on this, clearly you probably are one of the ones doing this. I know you’re probably very poor, overseas and in desperate need of money (why else would you sell your reputation for less than $20 a pop?), OR your one of the few Bloggers out there that clearly marks their posts as adverts.

      But if you were selling heroin on the street (a practice that USED to be legal in America), we as a society must stop you. Please just stick with writing great content and selling traditional adverting space. Yes I know that disguising adverts as honest opinion is no where near as bad as selling heroin, but magnified analagies help get points across.

      And I’m sorry we wouldn’t consult the people selling heroin on the street when we were considering making it illegal.

  • http://www.playingcardsandmore.com tom

    I view the FTC’s intrusive into the online world as a dangerous first step on a very slippery slope. Once the government gets it’s foot in the door, there may be no stopping their appetite for ever expanding control. We must learn from history on this one.

    • http://www.green-living-healthy-home.com/ Michael McDonald

      I am with you!!

      God help us if they do.

      Ask the people of China how they feel regarding government intervention on anything.

    • http://mythoughtsideasandramblings.com Lisa

      My problem with the rules is that they are more strict on the internet than traditional media. I find that very wrong. When I hear a DJ on the radio promote a product or product placement in my favorite show, I want them to disclose like I have too. Oh wait, the FTC didn’t go after them because they have deep pockets.

      • Guest

        I t sounds like you agree with the FTC that this practice should be stopped and these laws even expanded.

        The only people in America that make things illegal (sadly) is our government) and we demand that they do. We just wish they make the proper laws instead being so corrupt. But we all have to admit that truth in advertising is a good thing don’t we?

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Official Safety and Security

    As a web site owner, I don’t have a blog yet for my site www.officialsafetyandsecurity.com but I do have a forum and I think the same rules that apply to print should apply to online publications. No one wants to be deceived whether on or off line. Thanks, Chris, for this interesting article.

    • http://texxsmith.com Texxs

      Absolutley! It just made me ashamed of my country and angry when I saw a TV “news” story about a “new” (it was a cheesburger, come on, clearly not news!) dish at a local restaurant. Totally disgusting!

  • Bob

    Whether statements are bought and paid for or freely made, it is still very difficult to tell whether or not they are true. Their truth may not have a lot to do with the medium in which they are made, even if it is a court of law. Too many people are known to have lied under oaths. It is probably a good idea to try to have some guidelines for the truth of what is published on the Internet, but such guidelines will never be adequate protections against lies and less than complete statements about any product or idea. This is the challenge of being a wise consumer of information.

    • Dusty

      No, we don’t need Daddy telling us what we can post on the Internet. We don’t need Mommy telling us to be careful. We are all adults and must be diliegent to check the facts, research a company, think for ourselves and accept the consequences if we are less then careful.

      These FTC people are control freaks. These ‘gray areas’ are places they will encroach further on our rights of free speech. Hells bells, those folks in DC can’t tell a truth from a lie! And they want to regulate us!! How do you know if these Washington DC guys are telling a lie? Their lips are moving.

      This is equivalent to book burning. We will have to tell the truth the way THEY see it. We all know that there are many ways to report on something and almost all have a bit of truth and a bit of the other, which may be just valid opinion in the long run.

      If you want to give up free speech to people who want to control every aspect of your life then knock yourself out. But I don’t think you really want to do that.

      The best thing to say to a bully the first time he wants your lunch money is, “NO!”.

      • Really?

        You really think it’s okay for anyone to say whatever they want on the internet? Hmmm, What if they are saying all blacks, jews or whites should be killed. What if they are saying that people should do something heinous to your family?

        Less extreme example:
        What if they are saying that there’s a pound of yummy cereal in a box, but when you buy it it’s actually sand?

        You’re okay with that?

        I don’t think so. You’re argument is republicanly (yes, I just invented a word!) ridiculous. I think you’re just mad because you want to go getting paid by people who put sand in cereal boxes.

    • http://blog.texxsmith.com Texxs

      It’s really easy to determine whether or not someone is lying about whether they got paid by a company or not to write a review. You don’t have to ask them, you just check financial records. Good thing you’re not a cop!

  • http://www.typeofattorney.com Outrageous

    This new attempt at placing a muzzle on the Internet, is a thinly veiled attempt at what they could ever do in the rest of the media, including Radio and Television, Cable, and that is to force what they call, the Fairness doctrine upon Bloggers and other internet professionals, this is nothing short of an attack on the rights of every free person on this planet and it should be stopped rescinded challenged and stomped into the ground everywhere it rears its ugly head.

    This is nothing short of pure Evil and it is slap in the face of every single freedom loving person on the face of this planet, why you say?

    That too is easy to answer, because they have tried to force us into submission they have tried to create a situation where our freedom is taken away, and if this is allowed to continue in its present form, it will result in a reduction in the confidence of the internet to grow and become a stable source of income in the form of wall street, can you say NASDAQ.

    This is yet another Liberal Left Wing Assault on Freedom guaranteed by the constitution and it should not stand one second longer.

    • http://www.ParentsWhoCare.us BloggersWhoCare

      Q: Do we as a Society just look the other way when it is paid for on “TV dollars” in revenue?

      When eithics and the lawyers needing to collect legal fees for frivolous law suits – start to diminish, then, and only then, we will start to see a return of our Country to normalcy…but not until this time.

      It is all about control, always has been, and without more courage to stand UP and say no more slavery in the 21st Century will we succeed and prevail.

      PLEASE SEE and Share these BLOG Updates: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-sj13/blogs
      Then SEE: http://www.FathersWhoCare.Blogspot.com

      Q: May WE ask what the FTC is/are doing about these TV advertisers’ claims and endorsements?
      A: No Fine here or the late night Cable companies might lose some revenue.

      READ THIS: http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r20611890-Scam-Anthony-MorrisonHidden-Millionaires-Infomercial

  • http://www.typeofattorney.com Guest

    You sir must not be aware of the danger of censorship, something even the hippies that smoked dope all day long understood, but then what does that say for modern day society?

    If you start telling TV radio and newspapers what they can say or cannot say and start to fine them for saying what they believe in that that sir is a lie and an Evil cartoon that used to be america, it is people like you that obviously believe that the government has the right to tell everyone what to think what to say what to do that is the problem we have with this country now.

    If you want to live like this then I suggest you move to a country that has no freedom at all then you can talk about extending the law to cover TV Radio and Newspapers because guess what those countries have no freedom.

    • http://texxsmith.com texxs

      We’re NOT talking about political speech. We’re talking about paid advertisements disguised as opinion.

      HUGE difference.

      You wouldn’t have been trying that republican trick of trying to talk about a non issue, pretending it’s the issue, would you? I hope not, because this is where the smart people hang out and that just makes you look bad.

  • Guest

    It’s all about the almighty $.
    If they can’t make a $ from it, then they want to control it
    If they can’t control it, then they want to stifle it entirely.
    When will Americans wake up to the fact that the Gov. now controls everything, and will not give back any of the power. Gov. should only exist to protect, not to propagate legislation which serves only to further empower themselves. This is a viscous circle from which there is now no hope of return… The only true medium for Free speech and they want to control it…. this should be the last straw for Americans…. Get off of your couch and do something about this !

    • http://banditasblog.blogspot.com valerie

      And, just what do you expect us to get off our collective rumps and do?

  • http://extremeezine.com/ Brian D. Hawkins

    While I’m not for the Government regulating everything there is a serious problem with deceptive and dishonest advertising, especially in email marketing. I hate the idea of the FTC stepping in but you can thank the dishonest marketers out there for the guidelines. One thing for sure, anything the Government touches turns to a disaster, this is something the industry should have addressed and cleaned up itself.

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com James

    Look… If you think businesses are going to stop lying and deceiving the public. Not only do you have weak concept of what this whole FTC regulation thing will really do for people and business… but you have misplaced belief in the corporation as if it were run by clergy men…

    America is so screwed up… I’m glad I’m not inside it… Give it a few years… maybe they will walls to keep you guys put…

    • http://blog.texxsmith.com texxs

      Are you trying to say that because businessmen want to lie and decive and they won’t stop, we shouldn’t even try?

      You do know we can and HAVE stopped them from certian deceptive methods before. Remember snake oil being touted as a cure for everything? Do you think we should return to this?

      Your business has vendors right? Do you think it’s ok to say, promise the fastest storage available (just as an example), guaranteed when they actually have the lowest? I’m betting you don’t. So why do you think it’s okay for blogger to lie and say they tested this storage and it’s the fastest storage ever when actually they didn’t, can’t and just got paid to say that?

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com James

    Just to add… People need consumer protection… Not protection against advertising in the form of FINES.

    When somebody sells a product on an infomercial… if they are getting paid or whether or not they are actors is entirely irrelevant. There is nothing wrong with promotional material nor is there anything wrong with a consumer making an association between one good reputation and another.

    What needs to happen is consumers need a better voice… a better venue for police to crack down on bad business. It’s what the consumer purchases which matters… what they actually receive… not what they believe after reading an advertisement.

    I say weed out bad business through hunting down and eliminating it… Not by imposing a witch hunt across the nation… how exactly would anybody plan to impose these rules of ethics outside of the US anyways?

    What little I do know is that television reporters do more for ripped off consumers than what government does…

    I mean if I had to choose between getting fined for producing bad product or service… I would prefer that as opposed to getting fined for let’s say… mentioning a product on another website which for one reason or another was “illegal”…

  • Guest

    They can control the net, once they can control the White House. Once politicians and lawyers can be fined for telling lies, then I can see the net having some control. How can something so corrupt act like its so perfect? They are just mad because people dont buy newspapers anymore and go online to get their news. They can control what was read in newspapers but not the net. That just boils them deeply. These freaks need to get a real job, like digging ditches and filling them back in.

    NO MORE OCCUPATIONAL POLITICIANS. They have gotten fat and lazy on the blood of the US and their greed is revolting.

  • Guest

    I don’t think the government should be involved, but when the ladies go on the morning talk shows and talk it openly how they are blogging on products they test. They say they have a large following !
    When asked if they bought the products or were they given them! They said they were given them and paid to write about them in blogs! What did you think was going to happen? Nothing !
    People put their foot in there big mouth and now want to complain !

    I don’t know what they wrote but, when they talked with the ladies that read these blogs about the items and bought the products. Just because they said they thought they were truly independent test and it wasn’t. What did you think was going to happen.
    Specially when every government agency is looking for money today, so they can fill their kitty that has a hole it in.

  • http://www.topbesthostings.com babak

    My problem with the rules is that they are more strict on the internet than traditional media. I find that very wrong. When I hear a DJ on the radio promote a product or product placement in my favorite show, I want them to disclose like I have too. Oh wait, the FTC didn’t go after them because they have deep pockets.

  • http://www.freedomideas.com Tomaz

    I wouldn’t worry about it. In reality you’ll most likely have to add the disclosure to your privacy policy which 99,999% of your web visitors DO NOT read.

    So it will be very easy to follow the law and at the same time NOTHING will change with your traffic or the amount of sales you make. No big deal…

  • Jack

    This is just more Nazism from the man who wants “emergency powers” to control the internet. How’s that Hope and Change working for you now, morons?

    • Guest

      And there’s death panels too, and Obama’s a Muslim, and wasn’t born in the US, etc. etc. etc.

      Come on, this is where the smart people hang out, go take that crap to foxnews.com

  • The Voice of Reason

    In a world of ego maniacs one wonders who gives someone the right to tell others what they can or can not say. thats like telling a dog don’t bark at neighbours in their own yard do you think the dog is going to listen?.
    While the right of copywrited material has laws to stop it’s use without permission or money exchanging hands to be more to the point if it is writen materail like a poem can it be wrong to email it or blog it as long as the Athours name and copywrite symbol are attached, to me that would only encourage people to want more of that persons work and hence leading to money for the athour surely that would have to be a good thing.
    What it all comes down to at the end of the day is if you don’t want someone else to see it then don’t let it pass from your brain to recorded material in any way shape or form that can be seen heard or felt by someone else.

    the advancement of the Human Race has only come about due to the sharing of other people’s ideas or wisdom if that term makes you happier. It is time people grew up and got over the concept greed is good look at how many people have gone to the grave and left behind stock piles of money they can not use anymore.

    • Guest

      writen materail like a poem can it be wrong to email it or blog it as long as the Athours name and copywrite symbol are attached

      If you are giving it away for free, why would anyone pay for it?

      It’s sad but in this country (USA) people have to make profit or they become homeless, get disease which can’t treatment of r and then die. Thier kids too.

      Why would you try to deny a poet his chance at living? Please don’t steal.

      • Guest

        No one said anything about stealing or even posting all of a poets work for free but you would have to agree that samples of someone’s work with the full reconition of who it belonged to is a good way for other to learn about them and then show support everyone in the world needs to make money to survive the main point behind this topic is solely the reposting of articles from other websites that people are saying hey thats my work now pay me for it yet it is already on the web.

        when it comes to money sadly the more money everyone has the more worthless it becomes if everyone had a million dollars how much do you think a loaf of bread would be worth?

  • Guest

    Seems the Govt’ constantly keeps trying to control the net and in areas it doesn’t have any authority. The Net is World Wide. FTC’s constantly pound their Chest about Protecting Consumers from fraudulent advertising, well only to their benefit. Example: How much Payola do you thing the FTC garnered from the False Airbag commercials in automobile advertising. They completely Ignored the Automobile Industries False advertising of these choreographed and phony air bag commercials shown on National TV. Remember them? You’d see the interior of the drivers seat looking at the steering wheel and in ‘Slow Motion’ you would see an Air Bag being discharged from the dash or steering wheel in a Fluffy smooth ‘Clean’ manner. This is Totally False and Fraudulent advertising that has been perpetrated on the American Public for decades and the FTC did NOTHING! Why, probably because the Auto manufacturers and the Insurance Lobbying groups sent large amounts of money to various departments of the FTC. What really happens is an Explosion in the face of the driver and passenger with a very Loud Blast and the entire compartment of the Vehicle is filled Immediately, with Smoke. This is Dangerous and has resulted in serious injuries and even death, but yet, the FTC who wants to flex their muscles on certain advertisers just turns their head and lets it happen. This is one example of a National TV commercial that should have NEVER been allowed to air and all connected parties should have been fined or put out of business for perpetrating such a harmful ad on the general public.
    Now if you think there was nothing to this why not try writing and complaining to the FTC about WHY they allowed such a Fraudulent AD to continue and see how they backpeddal out of it.

    So now the FTC wants to control more aspects of the Internet?? They need to BUTT OUT! They don’t control the internet and should not be allowed to impose any regulations PERIOD!

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