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F.T.C. Proposes To Fine Bloggers Not Disclosing Payments For Reviews

4:01 pm on Oct 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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F.T.C. Proposes To Fine Bloggers Not Disclosing Payments For Reviews [google.com]
The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.
The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation.

6:17 pm on Oct 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thank god they are going to finally go after Jane Doe who blogged that she really likes Bumblee Bee more than Starkist after they both sent her some $1.00 off coupons -- and she forgot to mention the coupons.

Neh, they'll use this to go after the big fish. There's probably a select few that will be hurt by this and I'm sure they've been targeted from Day 1.

3:35 am on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I put my tongue in my cheek for that previous post, but it dawns on my how serious this really becomes for AdSense affiliates.

You write a blog post about Nike Shoes and AdSense immediately puts ads for Nikes on your blog. You now must go back and DISCLAIM that you received income for writing that post.

After a quick read through of the rule making posted to the federal registry, I do not think you would need to go back and print a disclaimer in this example. I do not think that your blog post about Nike shoes would qualify as an "endorsement" under the rules. I also do not think that you received compensation from Nike, but rather from Google, and the ads are not even necessarily from Nike, but could be from Macy's, Kohls, etc. In any case you have no idea whom Google collected money from for clicking on an ad, so it seems impossible to say that you received money from the manufacturer in whose product you commented on.

I am certainly no expert, so you can't rely on this. But that is how I am reading the rule making.

9:54 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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As a news publisher I welcome this. Paid editorial content is one of the reasons why print newspapers lost their credibility and consequently their readers.

And Brett, with all due respect: Google ads are clearly labeled as advertisement (and i recall many here complaining about that) - don't you think that is more than enough of a disclaimer that will satisfy regulators?

I wish ALL "paid for content" (you know, like travel writers who get a free holiday in return for a favourable article while they are on the payroll of their publication) would be labeled as advertisement!

10:19 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Google ads are clearly labeled as advertisement

Not always ..depends on your deal with GOOG ..examples all over the net "sponsored" does not register in most peoples minds as "advertising" ..

Which is why GOOG show adwords in search as "sponsored"

1:42 pm on Oct 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Here is an FTC response to some of the initial feedback.


It has comments from Richard Cleland of the FTC.

Includes :

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?”

And :

Disclosures can be made in different ways, whether you make it outside of the text but in proximity to blog, or incorporate it into the blog discussion itself—those are the issues that bloggers will have discretion about.

So in essence as long as there is somewhere on your blog/site explaining how you may receive compensation you should be fine.

DisclosurePolicy.org have come up with a great tool for creating a disclosure policy for yourself.

The original guide was from 1980, so clearly needed updating. The request for comments dates back to January 2007, so a lot of this is not in response to what has happened in the last few months, although I am sure in light of flogs, fake celebrity endorsements this has speeded up getting the guidelines changed.

Effective date is 1st December, so you still have time to evaluate and assess how this will affect you.

Nobody sends me any free stuff...sniff sniff

5:33 am on Oct 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Bloggers? Who are they? Aren't they the next door neighbours with some extra visibility?

Every blogger is a brand, got some customers, so if they cheat their customers, they will have to pay for it in long run. It is a question of ethics not law.

Ethically I am against Paid posts not being disclosed as paid post but then it is about blogger and his life, if I get wrong vibes, I will not take his recommendations anyway.

Best Regards,
Aji Issac

12:54 pm on Oct 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

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> Even Google is trying to address all of the self-serving junk being presented as "news."

> Last month, Google News made a small and mysterious change to the way it displays some news sources: “We’re now visibly marking articles published on a news blog with a ‘(blog)’ label attached to the publication’s name,” Google explained, attributing the switch to user feedback. The label, a spokesman later told me, applies to any content “published through blogging software.”

Black hat scammers are abusing Google News and even search results that are news. Google Suggestions (search box, not text links) are updated very quickly now. The Black hats are scanning news searches all the time, ready to pounce, and mass-link to get to the top of Google on hot new searches.

Over the weekend during the Heene maelstrom, the first suggestion was "Heene announcement." The first two Google Results were to non-MSM news websites. They both had the link text "Heene Announcement" to match the Google Suggestion and both were virus-installation websites activated immediately upon clicking the link. One was a site in Russia. How Google let itself get duped into thinking a news report for the United States was best served from Russia, I will never know.

Now, with respect to the FTC, I don't know if they are responding to the growing problem of undisclosed advertorials in the best way, but they needed to say something.

A few years ago, the FTC responded to the search engines which failed to disclose which results were paid results.

The blog problem resulted from companies trying to exploit the legitimate blogs which had honest opinion product reviews.

"Let's just ask people to write reviews for us and nobody will know they were paid."

One company of course was busted not long ago for having its staff write online reviews about themselves posted as independent reviews.

I get email from companies that want me to write reviews on my site for their product.

Um, ah, ha, no!

The FTC threats should be against the company soliciting reviews, not the bloggers.


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