FTC Guidelines Raise Big Blogging Questions

Some Gray Areas in Disclosure to Think About

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Update 3: The new FTC Guidelines went into effect this week. A recent WebProNews interview with Wendy Piersall, Founder of the Woo! Jr. Network, looks at some interesting points about them that you may not have considered – some "gray areas" if you will.

Update 2:  Now Cleland says, "If people think that the FTC is going to issue them a citation for $11,000 because they failed to disclose that they got a free box of Pampers, that’s not true. That’s not going to happen today, not ever." (via)

 The FTC is now saying that the $11,000 fine is not accurate, at least for the first violation. Fast company got some responses from Richard Cleland, assistant director, division of advertising practices at the FTC, who says:

“That $11,000 fine is not true. Worst-case scenario, someone receives a warning, refuses to comply, followed by a serious product defect; we would institute a proceeding with a cease-and-desist order and mandate compliance with the law. To the extent that I have seen and heard, people are not objecting to the disclosure requirements but to the fear of penalty if they inadvertently make a mistake. That’s the thing I don’t think people need to be concerned about. There’s no monetary penalty, in terms of the first violation, even in the worst case. Our approach is going to be educational, particularly with bloggers. We’re focusing on the advertisers: What kind of education are you providing them, are you monitoring the bloggers and whether what they’re saying is true?” [empahsis added]

Cleland addresses more of the concerns here.

Original Article: The Federal Trade Commission has released its revised guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. The revisions include a focus on "bloggers" and social media users, requiring them to properly disclose when they have received payment in the form of either money or product from a company or organization and produce content regarding said company or organization. The word is that bloggers can be fined up to $11,000 per post for not disclosing.

Have you ever mentioned a free product you received online and not disclosed it?
Comment here.

The reasoning behind the guidelines seems noble enough – provide transparency and keep consumers safe from hokey information. However, the concept of the government dictating how this happens does not sit well with a lot of people. The revisions (which can be found in this 81 page document [pdf], should you care to peruse them [they start around page 55]) have ruffled quite a few feathers and the conversation has become one about free speech.

Jeff JarvisWell-known author/editor/publisher Jeff Jarvis makes a really good point. He says the FTC assumes that the Internet is a medium. "It’s not. It’s a place where people talk. Most people who blog, as Pew found in a survey a few years ago, don’t think they are doing anything remotely connected to journalism. I imagine that virtually no one on Facebook thinks they’re making media. They’re connecting. They’re talking," he says. "So for the FTC to go after bloggers and social media – as they explicitly do – is the same as sending a government goon into Denny’s to listen to the conversations in the corner booth and demand that you disclose that your Uncle Vinnie owns the pizzeria whose product you just endorsed."

It’s not hard to find echoes of Jarvis’s sentiment all over the web. Although, I don’t believe I’ve seen it as eloquently put as with the Denny’s analogy. Still, not everyone sees the FTC regulations as a bad thing. In fact, Google’s Matt Cutts stepped into the conversation with Jeff Jarvis, expressing a bit more enthusiasm for the guidelines.

Google's Matt Cutts "As a Google engineer who has seen the damage done by fake blogs, sock puppets, and endless scams on the internet, I’m happy to take the opposite position: I think the FTC guidelines will make the web more useful and more trustworthy for consumers," he says. "Consumers don’t want to be shilled and they don’t want payola; they want a web that they can trust. The FTC guidelines just say that material connections should be disclosed. From having dealt with these issues over several years, I believe that will be a good thing for the web."

Commenters essentially tell Matt the whole thing would smell a lot better if he were the one regulating it. The reasoning for this is that Matt is involved with the industry. He is not a government worker that has been one his whole life. He’s been in the field. He knows the score. The argument coming from most of the opposition is not about the fundamental principle of making content more trustworthy for consumers. At the root of it, it appears that people are much more concerned about a government body of regulators who aren’t necessarily involved with online content production telling them how it is, when there are many, many questions about what falls under the criteria.

A number of these questions are nicely placed in an "open letter to the FTC" from Ron Hogan at MediaBistro’s GalleyCat. Here are a few of them:


– If an unpaid blogger at the Huffington Post "endorses" a consumer product without meeting the FTC guidelines for disclosure of "material connections" to the makers of that consumer product, who’s liable: the blogger or the Huffington Post?

–  If a blogger prints out a series of blog posts and distributes those printed copies, is he now the publisher of a newspaper or magazine? If so, the Village Voice is distributed for free, so can a blogger/publisher distribute his newspaper or magazine for free, too?

–  What if a blogger confines herself to stating demonstrably proven facts about a book, its author, its contents, and the matter of its publication? Does the FTC consider that an endorsement? What if she confines herself to stating such facts and includes links to an ecommerce site? Has her writing somehow been transformed from a statement of fact to an endorsement? 

There are plenty more where that came from. The list goes on. You can probably think of a few yourself. It may be hard for the guidelines to be enforced. The FTC does acknowledge that its guidelines aren’t exactly the law themselves. The FTC says:

The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.

It should also be noted that the rules presumably apply to publications beyond bloggers and social media users, but for some reason it appears that "bloggers" are the ones with whom the FTC had on its collective mind when drafting these guidelines. You have to wonder if they are able to come up with a definition for "blogging" (others have had trouble in the past. Even those directly involved in the online content industry). The rules are scheduled to take effect on December 1st.

What questions do you have about the FTC’s guidelines? Share them here.

FTC Guidelines Raise Big Blogging Questions
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  • Guest

    If you commented that you got some oral Sex out behind the 7-11, would you then have to reveal her name?

    • http://www.HatsAmerica.Com Guest

      You wouldn’t have to reveal her name, but you would have to disclose the fact that you got it for free! Are you sure it was a her?

  • http://dalkoyo.wordpress.com koyofur

    Most interesting. I thought investors were supposed to do something called DUE DILIGENCE when looking at investing. Not just taking someones’ else comments at face.

    What a joke! Yet one more way for the investor to point fingers for making a bad decision and not holding themselves ACCOUNTABLE for jumping on something that burns them. Now the FTC will most likely step in and say if you hear somebody endorse something there is a fine!!!

    Why can’t we just use common sense when investing and not keep falling for only psychological games.

  • http://www.freespeach.com I Wonder

    Well the 12 million ‘made for adsense’ sites out there are total scams that lure folks into crap sites through manipulation of the search engines and manipulation of the adwords program, this wastes peoples time and costs advertisers money. When will Google fix that?

  • sofakingdabest

    Whatever. Journalism, blogging, media, medium, free speech, etc. All the lines are blurred.

  • Guest

    I thought all review magazines, websites, and bloggers received all of their items for review free of charge? So, what… now Consumer Reports has to pay for the items before they review them or the review is tainted? Stupid. Let’s get government involved! Good plan! Idiots.

    • Kay

      Uh…no. Consumer Reports does NOT get any of their items for review free of charge. And, yes, they DO believe that getting them for free WOULD taint their reviews.

      Here’s what the Consumer Union says on its website
      < http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/aboutus/mission/overview/index.htm >

      “To maintain its independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside advertising and no free samples and employs several hundred mystery shoppers and technical experts to buy and test the products it evaluates.”

      Oh…by the way. A lot of those review websites out there? As I know from firsthand experience, they hire freelance writers to write reviews without EVER seeing the products!! The writers are expected to scan the Internet for existing reviews and rewrite them in their own words. Plus a lot of those sites are quite polished and professional enough looking so that the average person would have no reason to distrust them.

      It’s too bad that *you* didn’t verify your assumptions before calling others idiots and stupid. To do a little research on the topic. After all, isn’t that what so many anti-FTC posters here are demanding the average person do?

  • http://www.cpasitesolutions.com Kenny

    Anyone who trusts the web, with or without this legislation, is stupid. Very stupid. It could be argued that these people are so stupid they deserve to lose everything. After all, money is power and and stupid people with power are very dangerous.

    All kidding aside, though, this is not only an outrageous affront to the constitution, it’s also a stupid, ineffective, unenforceable law. This is a typical example of a bunch of bonehead Washington dinosaurs passing laws about things they don’t understand. It will have no effect on the spammy blogs and posts they are trying to effect. Most of those pages are hosted overseas anyway. All it does is open the door for the government to stick its nose even deeper into our private lives.

    Typical. Spend millions of taxpayer dollars passing laws that accomplish nothing other than mocking the fundamental principles of the Constitution.

    It’s a time honored beltway tradition called “Mr. Feel Good” legislation. The idea is to look like you’re doing something without having to confront the moneyed vested interests that bought you your cushy job.

    It’s pathetic.

    Of course We the People bear the ultimate responsibility. We’re the ones that are so steeped in ignorance that we don’t see these political sleights-of-hand as what they are. We are a culture of ignorance that puts up womanizing, dog-fighting jocks as role models and beat up the smart kids. We mock honest morality with terms like “loser”, and then get all indignant when AIG cooks the books.

    Maybe we don’t deserve freedom of speech, anyway.

    • http://www.loudmarket.com Mike

      Best post I have read in a long long time. Kenny for Congress!

      “Anyone who trusts the web, with or without this legislation, is stupid. Very stupid. It could be argued that these people are so stupid they deserve to lose everything. After all, money is power and and stupid people with power are very dangerous.

      All kidding aside, though, this is not only an outrageous affront to the constitution, it’s also a stupid, ineffective, unenforceable law. This is a typical example of a bunch of bonehead Washington dinosaurs passing laws about things they don’t understand. It will have no effect on the spammy blogs and posts they are trying to effect. Most of those pages are hosted overseas anyway. All it does is open the door for the government to stick its nose even deeper into our private lives.

      Typical. Spend millions of taxpayer dollars passing laws that accomplish nothing other than mocking the fundamental principles of the Constitution.

      It’s a time honored beltway tradition called “Mr. Feel Good” legislation. The idea is to look like you’re doing something without having to confront the moneyed vested interests that bought you your cushy job.

      It’s pathetic.

      Of course We the People bear the ultimate responsibility. We’re the ones that are so steeped in ignorance that we don’t see these political sleights-of-hand as what they are. We are a culture of ignorance that puts up womanizing, dog-fighting jocks as role models and beat up the smart kids. We mock honest morality with terms like “loser”, and then get all indignant when AIG cooks the books.

      Maybe we don’t deserve freedom of speech, anyway.”

      And yes, I quoted it in it’s entirety on purpose..

    • Guest

      It,s the same old story more Big Brother Government sticking it,s nose in another bee hive!

      ” YOU Can Not Legislate Human Nature .”

      If it were true why have the volumes upon volumes of law written to this date not improved our overall way of life ,why does it seem that with every new law passed our society as a whole seem to be spinning out of control. The reason is a lack of personal moral “responsibility”.

      Everyone with a functioning brain cell knows that all information is subject to individual interpretation,be it blog posts ,advertisements or any published works …All have equal protection under the law to their opinion as long as it is in line with the excepted social morals but it seems these lines to are being blurred to .

      Make no mistake this is just one of many issues that is stemming from a premise of a need for a global new world order that is being scripted by the power elite ,to squelch any dissent whatsoever ..

      The Unalienable Right to Freedom of speech is just one of constitutional guaranteed rights that have been eroded over the years but the masses do not seem to care …

      So when all of us dumb sheep get fleeced and set out to pasture don,t gripe because your cold, just keep on watching your nascar and football and save the control for the big boys..

  • Guest

    @Guest, 10/o6, 13:19-
    Only if she paid you to or gave you something else free to mention it : )

    I see a big difference between the Internet and a conversation at Denny’s. At Denny’s the only people hearing the recommendation are those at the table, and if all of them don’t know that Uncle Vinnie is your uncle, one of them is likely to mention it. No such info is automatically available on the net.

    Rave about the Kiss concert you’re planning on going to , or just cite the date, time and place. Doesn’t matter. But if Kiss paid you or gave you something to talk about it, say so.

    Enthuse like crazy about the cool Kiss Mr. PotatoHead you got, and oh yeah, your kids freaking love it. Post the link to KissOnline where other people can buy. Or pan it that it’s the stupidest thing on this earth, little pieces broke darn near instantly and your kids think it stinks. Say what you want about it. But if Kiss gave you the Potatohead, say so.

    Is it that damn difficult to admit possible influence? If someone’s reviews or opinions are useful and spot-on, it shouldn’t make any difference. Just let us know if you discovered this thing on your own, or some company thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread and just wants lots of people to know about it.

    I don’t see any problem with this. Not only is it fair, it’s good manners and good sense.

    • guest

      In my opinion it’s all about educating internet users about what should be considered trustworthy information. The internet is full of resources for just about anything you can think about. I think this would be similar to someone picking up a “For Entertainment Only” magazine, reading it, and believing it as the truth. They should know better. If you want to learn about a product then you should check with reputable sources. Don’t bank your decision on a blogger in the first place. See what professionals say. Check out sites that are dedicated to reviews such as consumer reports and things of that nature. Do your research. Humans are absent minded forgetful beings. I don’t see how someone can be penalized for stating their opinion online and forgetting to document a certain piece of information that a third party such as the government deems to be an important piece of required information. If you have been employed by a company to produce blog post explicitly to improve the reviews of their product and you tell lie’s because you know nothing about the product. Never used it, don’t know if it works or doesn’t then that’s immoral and unethical, not illegal. If it was illegal then the majority of sales men out there should be fined. That’s what they do. Their job is to make you believe that you need their product and it’s the absolutely finest product of it kind available on the market. If you take them on their word and buy the product. Who’s the fool? Don’t pose restrictions on bloggers because the majority of the posts are innocent. I’m certain some are there to deceive but do what you need to so your not the next fool.

  • http://www.docuprosys.com Print_Equipment_Man

    I agree with Matt Cutts at Google, there has to be some regulation regarding disclosure about a product or service someone is paid to advertise or promote when that association isn’t obvious such as a blog or online bulletin board.

    The argument that the average person will have to disclose that their uncle owns a Domino Pizza franchise because they’re telling all their friends that Domino Pizza rocks is a real stretch. It’s obvious that the intent is to prevent fraud and that’s good for everyone in the long run.

    I ran across a web hosting company today that sited obscure service awards that linked back to a website with questionable creditability. I suspect this was a paid service, but without full disclosure (that I could find) it is difficult to know whether they truly did their homework or simply accepted payment for listing / award services. Wouldn’t the average person want to know if a blogger handing out “awards” were also getting paid to do so?

  • Guest

    hmmm … I like what someone here mentioned – the fact that most scam sites are based out of the country and thus any blogging that would violate this new law would fall out of its reach to enforce such outrageous fines –

    What’s going to happen is that there are going to be some of those people who don’t know the web enough and will go posting a blog to help a friends business out and end up with fines that will leave them out in the street and have NO idea what happened –

    I see it as a “using a shot gun to kill a fly” attempt at what is a real problem. I think if you want to protect the public from fraudulent scams – as Matt Cutts mentioned – they need to regulate what a BUSINESS posts on their e-commerce enabled website. I think most of the problem is that any Joe Shmoe can put up a site with the ability to charge money – say anything he wants to lure victims and since its a matter of numbers, he’s going to get a few before he’s found out. They need to focus on registered businesses advertising campaigns and making sure anyone who has an e-merchant account used to collect money is verified as a legitimate business before being allowed to put the business up –

    what people blog about, whether it may seem like a testimonial or a plug – really should not be regulated and definitely should not be against the law nor should it have any requirements of disclosure. Do these politicians even have a clue as to how many possible “law-breakers” this new rule would generate on a daily basis??? Do they have enough people to even read 1% of the blogs???

  • http://shutfoxdown.com Steve

    Does this apply to Fox News and their endless promotion of Books on their news programs? Do they profit from those? Their paid employees do since they all write books and promote them on Fox. Will they get fined?

    • Guest

      Regulations exactly like this one have been in place for many decades with regard to traditional media outlets. Fox can pimp Fox, and ABC can pimp ABC, because they have clearly identified the source of the material being pimped.

      This new regulation is simply trying to bring a very useful tool to the web.

      I agree with Matt Cutts.

      And besides, I can’t think of a single product review on any blog or website that was NOT some sort of paid endorsement, with the exception of those few who do not accept freebies and publish an obvious disclaimer to that effect. I mean, why the heck would any non-paid person voluntarily write a review about a new webcam or a hosting service unless it was to warn AGAINST using it? Seriously. What’s the point? Where does this happen? Nowhere that I can find.

  • Guest

    Do they not have anything better to do. Are they going to come into my and make sure im socializing correctly? I work for the Government and still think this is ludicrous. They are censoring comments now. Thats what this is. They are trying to censor… our… thoughts. We aren’t speaking, we aren’t a print publication, we are expressing ourselves. If someone gives me a taco and I like said taco, am i then unable to twitter about said delicious taco? Twitter only allows for 140 characters per tweet, am i supposed to use 75 disclosing my tweet? Is the FTC going to mandate that twitter ads more character space?

    I really don’t think this is going to fly. No way, who is going to manage this. How many people, and how much tax money would it take to create a branch dedicated to monitoring the internet. Its unthinkable, senseless, and completely asinine.

    O. I want to disclose that WebPro news paid me 2 tacos and a shiny nickel to make this post, and that all comments and statements represented above are therefor not completely of my own. I am unable to comment on the taco due to ftc restrictions.

    • Chris Crum

      Ha. I can’t vouch for the giving away of any tacos, although our head of sales did share some enchiladas earlier this week.

      Good point about the limited character space with Twitter. How many characters does it take for the average disclosure? Oh yeah…one company already has a special tag for it.

  • http://doccampbell.wordpress.com Doc

    I’ve got some mixed emotions on this one.

    On one hand, I agree with Matt that anything that establishes and maintains a higher level of integrity is good. But I think it’s pretty much an impossible dream, given the global nature of the internet.

    On the other hand, I automatically have issues with the ever-expanding meddling by the government, in things it neither understands, nor cares to. Everything they touch seems to end up costing ten times as much, and rendering one tenth the efficiency…I’d sooner see Ms. Latham’s first graders establish the rules!

    Overall, I’m in agreement with those that have said that only an idiot believes everything he reads. Even our news outlets are slanted, why would Uncle Jesse’s Blog automatically be given credibility by a prudent reader?

    The FTC should stay out of it, unless it’s a COMMERCE issue. If I’m SELLING a product, using my recommendations of it, then disclosure is valid. If I’m simply stating my opinion, in a non-commercial stance, it has nothing to do with either the FTC or the government!

  • Brandy

    I think that scam blogs are annoying and misleading, but I have blogged many times about products and businesses I support, none of which were prompted in any way by the businesses themselves. If I am not getting anything out of my promotion, and the business is not even aware I am blogging about them, then I won’t get in trouble, right?

  • http://www.SteveRene.com PWC News UpTweets?

    Here is my NEW LEGAL Disclaimer:
    No payment has been rec’d for any of my sites, posts, commentary or “civil rights complaints” filed for investigation against any relevant party associated with slander/defamation of or based on my opinions, writings or volunteer actions shared openly with my Congress and President – as a private citizen under the US Constitution.

    111th Congress – in Support of SJC 13/16 USC Amend to share “Equality” in Parenting equally.

    Thank you for sharing the truth with a little justice in mind. Please feel FREE to share this openly without punishment for sharing the truth “for a change we can believe in?”

    Can’t WE ALL get along?
    Please govern yourselves accordingly.

    Steve Rene
    “111th Congress – SJC 13/16 Amend to the US Constitution”
    cc: www.Fegen.com – Esq
    Confidentiality Notice: ALL intellectual property rights are reserved.

  • Guest

    It seems a bit ironic that bloggers would be arguing that they are not a media and not covered as media like other journalistic avenues but then they argue that their blogs are media like others and protected sources etc that applyto the other media should apply to them

    • Stupidscript

      I am in full agreement.

      Up until now, bloggers have gladly taken their positions as part of the next generation of journalists. With the release of this new tack, bloggers who have been gaming the system by hiding behind their “amateur” status while receiving kickbacks for their posts are now complaining, with Jarvis’ help, that the web is not a medium at all, but is simply a water cooler.

      Wrong. The web IS a “medium”, one that brings together multimedia to create a vastly more compelling media experience than any that has come before it. Rush Limbaugh would be nothing without his online disciples, and if he starts pitching a product, you darn well need to know it’s a pitch, because otherwise you’ll see legions of dittoheads wandering into stores, buying the product he “mentioned” on his webcast, for no other reason than the fact that he mentioned it.

      To claim that the medium in which you engage in a professional writing career is different from any other medium in which people engage in a professional writing career is disingenuous, at its very best.

  • Guest

    so what about affiliates? Technically they have not received anything free or gotten paid (yet), so they could technically still run around posting comments and blogs anywhere they want.

    What about the actor on TV who dresses up like a doctor and says, “yes this pill increases penis size, yada yada yada…” shouldnt he have to have a little disclaimer “I am not a doctor and I have been paid to say these things”.

    Advertising is advertising, you have to filter the BS out. More government regulation will not help anything.

  • http://www.giftedrums.com Robert Burr

    The issue is ADVERTISING. The guidelines are about using endorsements in ADVERTISING. The intent is for ADVERTISERS to be honest about endorsements used in their ads. The intent is to discourage advertisers from misleading the public about endorsements.

    This is regarding a blogger’s endorsement used in an advertisement if that blogger is paid a fee to write a “review.” It’s the obligation of the ADVERTISER to disclose the issue, not the blogger. A fake blog that is really a contrived review would be addressed by these guidelines.

    Sites like that charge a fee to publish a “review and rating” of their products will have to make that policy clear to those reading that “review and rating” to eliminate any misconception of the intent.

    Any blogger who charges a fee to write a “review” of a product should disclose that fact. Any blogger who receives a free trip to Disneyland to write a “review” of a product should disclose that fact.

    Blogger who publish opinions, review products or care to share their thoughts are not necessarily involved in advertising.

    Robert A. Burr
    National Rum Examiner

    • http://www.ParentsWhoCare.us SEO Private Citizen

      I”M STANDING for MY Son – Wow What a Video!

      REAL SEO Basics / [Non-PPCLICK] SEMarketing
      Google Analytics Reporting / Online Classified Advertising
      Online E-Commerce / Blogs / Forums /
      PLUS REAL Social Networking and Advertising
      Q: Where WHO? has brought US we cannot FAIL:
      Video A: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8ntFz6KGbE
      A2: Does Google Mantra: “Do No Evil?” apply here too?

  • Guest

    Does that mean you will have to disclose the Money you made from Bonanzle by Promoting them like you have while avoiding other other venues that have asked for your help?

  • http://www.WealthyBohemian.com Kevin Delaney

    Google’s Matt Cutts says: “Consumers . . . want a web that they can trust.”

    No government agency can make the Internet inherently trustworthy. If you’re pining for the day when you can believe everything you read and see online, you’re living in another dimension.

    Regulatory agencies such as the FTC have only one power: the power to threaten and to punish

  • Pete

    Does this mean that the FTC will be looking at UK bloggers writing in UK blogs, and that they will take action against foreign nationals who have never visited the US, and have no plans to do so?

    OR is this just going to penalise US bloggers, and exclude the rest of the world?

    OR does the FTC not realise that the majority of the web is outside the US?

    I am as confused as they seem to be.

  • Kenneth Brahmer

    This is yet another attempt by a government agency to deter one form of bad behavior but in the process damages the lives of the 95% of the public that do not behave inappropriately. The cure is worse than the disease. More to the point, it is not a value added effort. Just because you don’t receive some form of compensation for your endorsement does not mean it can do no harm. Enforcing such a ruling will cost the taxpayers a lot more than they would accept if the cost were accurately reported. That is a kind of endorsement without acknowledging that it will bring in more revenue for that agency. No value added, unenforceable and expensive…what can go wrong?

    • http://www.myspace.com/steverene11 Blog For Change

      Thank you Matt:

      Can you and Google help me remember what every Courtroom and our US Currency states:

      “In GOD WE TRUST?”
      If we ALL lived on this one premise would fines and punishment be necessary?
      I guess I will await the next attempt to block equality so many have stood for in our history:

      MLK – 1900’s
      Lincoln – 1800’s
      Willberfoce – 1700’s

      Thank you for your prompt reply,
      Steve Rene
      MySpace: www.?SteveRene.?com
      Twitter: @?ParentsWhoCare
      Facebook: Steve-Rene11
      LinkedIn: SteveRene11
      Skype: SteveRene11

      • Stupidscript

        Where’s your disclaimer? Or is comment spam exempt from this proposal?

        Speaking of which … where is the outcry from comment spammers?!?!?

  • http://www.seo-works.com Peter (IMC)

    I don’t understand the big problem. All you have to do is put a disclaimer in your blog in which you state that all products mentioned in the blog are placed there because you have to make some money as well, unless otherwise stated in a post itself.

    That you could actually use to your benefit, especially if you make a habit out of using the same kind of writing language for products you do receive compensation for and products you simply mention because you like them so much.

    You can create a lot of trust this way.

    These kinds of things are very valuable opportunities.

    • Bill Pattison

      As someone who works in the advertising business, the people who disparage these regulations are probably the same who spam the heck out of the internet. (Even this site uses CAPTCHA to prevent spam)

      When one person uses the internet to hype a product or service, their readers are going to believe them. Just like school children who download content and wonder why they get graded down for spelling or grammar errors.

      Just because it pops up on you screen does not make it true, or correct.

      Frankly, these rules would probably have been useful during recent political campaigns.

      If a blogger truly believes in a product or service, say so – then pay for it out their own pocket!

      The government monitors advertising for the good of the consumer, not the advertiser!

      Remember – Buyer (or reader) beware!!

  • Guest

    This is really silly.
    How are people going to allow the FTC to get away with this?
    Mark my words – If left to pass and become reality – much, much more will come.

    How is nobody seeing that this is just another step for government take over of, well, everything?
    They don’t actually care about bloggers.
    They’re just trying to find a back door to full internet control.
    (and you probably believe we’ll be going to war with Iran over nukes –
    not that Iran refuses to make a deal to pay US’ debt down).

    Notice they’re not going after all those infomercials at night or just regular commercials where the PAID actors are ‘really using the product’ and highly recommend it.
    The FTC/Gov’t already have TV and radio locked down.

    Blogger sites can police themselves just fine.
    Forums drop accounts marked as Spam on a daily basis.

    If you’re a dingbat who’s not smart enough to distinguish scam from reality – you’re the one to blame. (and there’s not many of those people left anyway)

    Why does the government think we’re helpless sheep, and they know better than us?
    They started with Online Casinos, and they’re moving forward with more and more control of the internet.

    Let this go by without a fight, and let go of the internet you know today.

    Spam sux, but government’s required approval of your movements is infinitely worse.

  • http://www.immediatehomebusiness.com Guest

    While I agree there needs to be some kind of protection for us consumers, I feel that this is just another way for our government ( whom by the way, is supposed to be “For The People” ) to keep control over us “smaller” people. Shouldn’t they be more concerned with the banking industry and all the billions given out only to fund their ceo’s retirement and all that other “perks” that seem to go with those jobs.
    Just another form of control by our “Awesome Government”…

    As Bill Mahr said a few years ago, ” We are NOT a FREE country; we ARE FREE-er than any other country, but we are not a FREE country”.

  • http://play-electric-guitar.net Andrew Webber

    Maybe now we can also stop women from wearing makeup on a date. That’s also false advertising.
    And how many politicians get elected on false promises?
    This whole thing stinks of control.

  • http://www.blagoplanet.com bad medicine

    I am appalled, that we have a government that would even try this unconstitutional event.

    So really what is up with these whacked people in the White house, vote them out of office.

    Vote them out of office.

    • Kay

      Why on earth do you think the FTC issuing guidelines is unconstitutional? Were you sick that day in elementary school when they discussed the limitations on free speech?

      You know. Things like not being constitutionally free to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater? Or not being constitutionally free to go around telling deliberately harmful lies about people? Or not being constitutionally free to plot with a bunch of other folks to, say, blow up the WTC?

      Or how about not being constitutionally free to deliberately lie to people for financial gain?

      Reputable people aren’t going to be harmed at all by following the FTC guidelines. If you’re not reputable, why should we support your right to be disreputable and deny the right of redress of grievances to consumers who have been harmed by you?

      Sorry, but I don’t buy into the “let’s blame the victim” mentality some folks seem to have. Do they *really* want to return to a time where there was no implied warranty on anything…the old caveat emptor days…so that *they* would be screwed when *their* purchase was defective and *they* had no recourse? Hmmm. I didn’t think so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/woody.collins Woody Collins

    I don’t see a problem with disclosure! I hope blogging remain a respectable vocation/avocation. There will always be prostitutes who are out to earn a buck.

  • Guest

    I am usually a big critic of authority dictating how we use mediums such as the internet, but in this instance I can see the positives. The original comments by Jeff Jarvis also need correcting – he states that the internet is not a medium, well this is not true depending on how it is used. If I publish material to the internet that is available for all to see then I am consciously pushing it out there for the wider world to see. If however I choose to talk/connect to other using one to one chat, email, VOIP, etc. then it is not a medium and I should not expect to have this intercepted and monitored. To draw a parallel with the corner booth at Dennys is simply wrong – you do not seek to make your conversations in the booth public. It is naive and disingenuous to believe that those who blog or contribute to Facebook are not making media – it may not fit in with the old fashioned concept of journalism but modern journalism has now evolved and is actively using the web as a medium.
    I personally would want to know if someone is endorsing something for their own gain at the same time as using my common sense to decide the merits. Ron’s questions miss the point – it does not matter if a blogger is paid or unpaid for the blog, it is whether they receive reward specifically for the endorsement within that blog and the same applies to the printed copy – if it contains an endorsement for reward then the blog must disclose this whether printed or not.

    If the concern is not with the regulations but WHO is in control of them then use your voice to change that not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    • L P

      When I watch a commercial by say, Cindy Crawford, she doesn’t specifically say, “I was paid by blah, blah, blah and/or I rec’d some of this “Free” product to tell you how great it is.

      So, why should the bloggers have to disclose it???? Am I missing the FINE print in Cindy’s commercials????

      • Guest

        You are missing the “fine print” … it says “Celebrity Endorser” right at the beginning of her pitch.

  • http://www.dgswilson.com/ Doug Wilson

    There are rare occasions when a nations people might reasonably need government to oversee something. Unless the issue is made “out here” it shouldn’t come up “from them”. Matt’s opinion, is wrong “for me” on this. I don’t want google working with the government to make policy – for me. There are people who will find ways to get scammed – no matter what. Then, there are the rest of us. We can teach each other – but at some point people have to learn anyway they can. If companies can “legally” be looked at for pay outs, then the law can look at them. Besides, unless and until DC cleans up it’s own “lobbied” house I don’t need it’s nose in mine. Bottom line is, it’s just another federal scam to bilk the public. I blog – with purpose – and it’s nobodies business, except the reader, who I endorse or why.

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

    I don’t have a blog for http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com yet but I do have a forum. Also, I read many blogs so I can see both sides of this situation. The internet needs to be more trustworthy but I think we all cringe when it comes to more and more regulations. There must be some middle ground. Thanks, Chris for this great information.

    • http://joblistguy.com joblistguy.com

      You said, “In fact, Google’s Matt Cutts stepped into the conversation with Jeff Jarvis, expressing a bit more enthusiasm for the guidelines. Just wondered, Are you getting paid in some form to give an endorsment for “BIG BROTHER” (GOV) in privet commuications? What’s next? lock up people for saying anything against…. sounds like 1939 the rise of Nazi SS AGAIN…? It was bound to happen in this country too. Here we go again…!

  • withheld

    Jeff Jarvis’ website, BUZZMACHINE.COM, has a discussion happening now in the comments of an article covering both Jeff Jarvis and Matt Cutts “statements” regarding this development.


    • Rich Ord

      Funny… but haven’t we linked to you enough right in the original article Jeff?

      Rich Ord
      CEO, iEntry, Inc.
      Publisher of WebProNews

  • Tim

    There is an almighty difference between RULES and LAW. Most people feel no obligation to adhere to rules, which are simply guidelines imposed by non-elected bodies, but when these rules have been enshrined as law by a democratically elected government, then we will see a significant proportion of the people take the new regulations seriously. The question gets down to one of AUTHORITY or JURISDICTION to regulate and whether individuals actually consent to this alleged authority.

    • Guest

      I think you’re mistaken about the rules… The bulk of the Executive branch is concerned with regulation; not law-making. The ability to enforce regulations rests with the White House. They can impose any kind of tax they want as long as it is cloaked in the garb of regulation. It bypasses the Congress.

  • Guest

    This opens the door for fines levied on anyone who ever took advantage of a Buy3 get 1 free promo, and then posts a review of that product without disclosing that they got a free tire or knife or whatever. Muy malo…

    • http://www.iceni-it.co.uk Guest

      Well it is in Germany ( think, my best efforts at tracking this down have been made and please seek the care and advice of a normal sane person). Parts of the EEC do not allow ‘tell a friend’ scripts as they see it as spamming. Our laws for payment in France are different from the UK if you go via PayPal and of course all the other banks that PayPal has turned into.

      I was told something I promoted was a scam. I asked the owner to reimburse the buyer and give me access (very nicely). I was making money keying in blogs in minutes. No scam.

      This sort of thing is not a new game. Gordon Brown and Tony B snuck a devastating law regarding how certain freelance workers can actually work (like doubling their state charges) in a disablement law. And now they want to make Tony B.Liar President of the EEC. Wow what a pair we are going to have.

      Absolutely nothing in this post should be considered legal or professional advice.


  • Guest

    Still trying to think about all the implications.
    Good post

  • JS

    funny, how about all the crap i see on tv? according to these people every diet machine, diet pill and get rich quick scheme actually work. oh wait, i forgot. they have those itsy bitsy tiny little disclaimers that flash as the bottom of the screen faster than you can see or read them. so here you go bloggers; just use some javascript, put a disclaimer in the smallest font you can, at the bottom of your post, and have it flash on and off, faster than anyone can read it…..

    • http://www.dotCOMReport.com adsense alternatives

      You have something here. It works for the garbage being sold on TV, why couldn’t it work for bloggers doing reviews.

  • http://www.fairybowmother.com Melissa

    Okay, Mr. and Miss FTC,

    How about going after the number 1 sponsored event out there today, and take on the lobbyists and our very own government representatives.

    If anything needs to be divulged, it’s the amount of money that representative X got for his campaign or for his pet project by voting with those monetary endorsements from a particular lobby group. Or who got what money to sponsor a particular person to actually have a seat on the FTC. So let

  • Guest

    The FTC isn’t threatening individuals who blog, rather it exposes private and political entities who “astroturf”–those who pose as individuals sharing their opinions. Imagine if the Communist party were posting political messages under the guise of individual bloggers expressing thier opinion. Professional blogging is becoming a HUGE industry, and companies interested in “viral advertising” spend a lot of money to get people to “blog” thier opinions, but those opinions are really advertisements. If oyu’re reading an advertisment, shouldn’t you be allowed ot know it? Fair disclosure is just..fair.

  • http://www.mouse-mat.com Guest

    Another US Govenment department on that famous hill that seems to be on a mission to make a total arse of itself on the world stage.

    What next? Extradition requests because a european Blog has been viewed by the FTC as endorsing a product and can be viewed on US computers?

  • http://InfiniteRegress.tv Paul Levinson

    Here’s my take on this issue http://paullevinson.blogspot.com/2009/10/ftc-wrong-to-regulate-deceitful.html

  • Guest

    Welcome to the Obama Nation, you all have been owned.
    This will only get worse. This is Gov first step into trying to police web.
    They slipped this in, not a word was said and no one even heard about it
    until it was passed. Ownage!!

    And you can believe big G had its hand in this is well, make ppl pay for PPC
    instead of paying Bloggers and Vloggers.

  • http://www.ballsupbingo.co.uk Sam Weren

    Federal Trade Commission? So what, the rest of the world is not part of your federation. I’d like to see them impose a fine on a blogger in France, Lithuania or Nigeria, LOL

    Note I didn’t say “The UK” becasue our Puppet Government would probably roll over and extradite the blogger under terrorist laws.

  • http://www.pubdomains.in Pubdomains

    It is fairly common to see competitors using forums, social networking sites and blogs to pass negative comments about services or products offered by others. By the same token, Would FTC also impose fine to those who give false information for negative marketing!

    How did they arrive at the value of $11x Zeros? Does anyone earn even 1/10th of such amount by advertising?

    And finally, word of mouth advertising (considered to be the best!) is often done when one has really liked a product, and doesn’t necessarily mean he / she has been paid to advertise – so do we setup an international cops cell to monitor who is using what, when, why where and how ?

    This truly is a globally absurd idea.

    IS anyone awake at FTC?


  • Chris Crum

    There is also a conversation going on the topic in our forum at WebProWorld.

  • http://www.mouse-mat.com Guest

    I seriously think Mat Cutts is seriously losing it. For a Google search guy to be spouting and pontificating about a trustworthy internet when googles own criteria just for getting indexed/ranked keep shifting on an almost weekly basis and the only clues as to what is required are issued in ambiguous comments just demonstrates that Mat and his buddies are more, than a bit out of touch with reality.

    The Reality is that most internet users have a ‘day job’ and simply can’t afford or even justify expensive SEO services and have limited and precious little time available.

    Too many times google searches return pages of useless and scam pages with decent pages that have clearly had a lot of effort and research invested in them buried countless dozens of pages down in the results in favour of countless dozens of scam and irrelevent pages.

    Maybe instead of agreeing with more regulations Mat/Google could endeavour to make Google’s operations a bit less clandestine? and ultimately help themselves by having more high quality content available?

  • SC

    Congratulations to everyone who voted for Obama. There is undoubtedly more of this to come.

  • http://www.fatherswhocare.blogspot.com FCC Net Neutrality

    Keep UP the good work WebProNews = w/Google, MSN and Yahoo?

    We have the FCC’s support on Net Neutrality,
    NOW we need to be allowed to lawfully
    provide support for our children under Federal LAW =?


    Thank you, again,
    Steve Rene
    Twitter: @?ParentsWhoCare
    Facebook: Steve-Rene11
    LinkedIn: SteveRene11
    Skype: SteveRene11

    Confidentiality Notice: ALL intellectual property rights are reserved.

    • Guest

      Was there a relevant comment in there, or just your link spam?

  • N. Prescott

    If I blog that Senator Foghorn is a great guy who will put a chicken in every pot, do I have to disclose that I voted for him and happen to own a chicken farm? And would you really trust Google to be the arbiter instead? My daddy always said, believe none of what you hear and half of what you see. Too bad that the current crop of brain dead, reality show watching, celebrity worshiping nitwits think that the Internet is the voice of truth. Thank the lord we have the government to tell us poor lemmings which cliff to march off.

  • Guest

    Will free speech Prevail? Or is the blog, AND freedom dead. The choice is really yours, you have exactly the amount of freedom your willing to fight for. Keep that in mind when the “Health Care Goons” come around to collect there tribute money.

  • http://askthegeek.us Guest

    I’m not really worried about it. I just put this in my emails and on my blog:

    FTC notice: Ask the Geek and/or its owners and affiliates may be compensated for products recommended or endorsed in newsletters, reviews, emails, blog postings, and web pages.

    Simple. People trust my opinion. Who cares if I get paid somehow? All I’m saying here is that I’m a paid celebrity endorser of the product. I’m not going to lose commissions on affiliate relationships because of the rule.


  • http://www.performancewebmarketing.com Marketing

    So we only clean up the web in the US, but these rules don’t apply to those outside of the FTC jurisdiction.

    Is this a case to outsource paid reviews then?

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