FTC Updates Endorsement Regs to Address Social Media

06 October 2009

Today the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recognized the growing influence of social media on the consumer by introducing new regulations aimed at bloggers who review products and provide testimonials.  According to the New York Times, these bloggers must now disclose any connection with advertisers, including if they’ve received free products or payment from the advertisers whose products they are reviewing.  This will also apply to celebrities.  Ad Age reports that violators could be fined up to $11,000 and could be held liable for false statements, including those made on Twitter or Facebook.

This seems to be a huge win for the consumer:  no more misleading reviews from bloggers whom they consider to be objective third parties.  And while it may plug a revenue stream bloggers came to rely on, in a way, it’s a win for them as well.  It is recognition of their growing influence, something many bloggers have fought for and struck out on their own to prove.

 Tech & The District readers should know that we’ve been abiding by this disclosure regulation since the inception of this blog.  (I’m sad to report we are not flooded with free products or payments for our statements – but that’s why we’ve been objective all along.)   I’m proud to work for a company that has outlined such clear, mutually-agreed-upon social media principles which included right from the beginning a full disclosure of our client links.  You can read all H&K guidelines here – the same guidelines which received kudos from ZDNet’s Sam Diaz  just last week. 

It will be interesting to see how the FTC enforces these new regulations.  In the interest of continuing our disclosures, we did host Sam Diaz for lunch while he was at the Washington Post, but we made him work for that lunch, so it doesn’t count as payment, right?  Just shows the importance of openness and transparency when working on the web.

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One Response to “FTC Updates Endorsement Regs to Address Social Media”

  1. Paul Holmes

    Love the ideal of greater transparency, which ought to benefit the consumer and good PR people.

    But the execution is horrible in this case. What justification is there for holding bloggers to completely different standards that print or TV media? Does Walter Mossberg become less trustworthy when he blogs than when he writes for the WSJ? Should HuffPo be subject to fines when NY Post is not?

    Longer thoughts here– http://www.holmesreport.com/blog/index.cfm/2009/10/6/FTCs-Blogger-Rules-Noble-Goals-Lousy-Thinking–but I’d question whether these rules will withstand the first decent lawyer to challenge them.

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