Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FTC Showing Serious Blogger Intent

Many colleagues thought I was overstating back in 2009 when I wrote about the Federal Trade Commission's desire to crack down on "paid blogging".

Guess what? The FTC wasn't kidding. While moving with "all deliberate speed" of the federal bureaucracy, the agency has dropped a quarter of a million dollar ruling against a group that was doing essentially paid advocacy reviews for a product. PRSA's website has the blow-by-blow.

The 140 character takeaway: Be very careful about any endorsements you make, and be ready to disclose any compensations.

That can include review copies, access to events, etc. Above all, it would include paid endorsements -- which a year ago I had heard rumblings of corporate sponsors who were thinking about asking colleges or coaches to say nice things in twitter feeds in return for compensation. That is the very thing that would get the FTC on your case.

To repeat the FTC's ruling:

Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

Again, the actions taken by FTC so far have been related to faking reviews to pump up a product, a sort of astroturfing move. That's not to say if super-visible coach Jones suddenly starting saying on a Twitter feed or Facebook how much they liked pizza from Brand X that wouldn't be the next thing taken on -- especially if no disclosure was made as to why Brand X was his favorite or worse, if Brand X got its logo on the Twitter background.

As an annoyance side note: Is anyone else tired of websites that are coding out the ability to clip short passages? (PRSA, hello; among others). Particularly bothersome when you are say, copying info from a federal agency that by itself isn't going to be copyright subject and you are doing your best to link back and help promote the page you notice. Just saying, not real digi-cool.

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