I have been out of pocket the past few weeks and haven’t had a chance until today to go over the FTC Rules for Disclosure as they apply to Bloggers. I know that this caused a serious uproar inside the blogger community, ShoeMoney (Jeremy Schoemaker) even called an emergency town hall meeting on TinyChat to discuss these new regulations. You can get ShoeMoney’s scoop here…
I have had a chance to read over the information initially released as well as the supplemental PDF explaining the rules today and for the most part I think most of us are not going to be affected by any of this. The obvious focus of the rule is to go after the fake news and endorsement sites that are out there. Personally, I think it’s going to be really tough to enforce.
There are some points that I want to bring up regarding the new rules that I think you should consider. The first being that if you receive compensation of any kind for promoting someone else’s product on your blog you had better do a full disclosure to let your readers now that. For instance, I recently reviewed a product for another company and received compensation for it. While the compensation wasn’t monetary (it was an Amazon Kindle) I still received compensation for my post. Fortunately for me, this rarely ever comes up. In the instance that I referred to earlier, I honestly was going to do a review of this product anyway and the fact that they sent me a free gift, while it was nice, it still didn’t sway my review one way or the other. Had the product sucked, I would have let you know, I promise…
In Forbes magazine, the FTC said that they were also going after employees of companies who blog as well:
The FTC also plans to crack down on company employees posing as citizen bloggers, a practice known as “astroturf marketing” because of its fake grassroots style.
As far as I can tell, neither of these documents addressed affiliate marketing, monetization, or paid links. I might be wrong, if I skipped over something, someone please be sure to let me know!! Oh, and by the way, if you are caught in violation of these rules, the penalty is $10k.
If you blog, do yourself a favor and spend an hour tonight going over these regulations if you haven’t already. Also, ShoeMoney brought up some good questions that I wanted to share w/ you as well:
I am curious where we stop? Lemme give you a few scenarios:
1) I do a paid $5000 paid post from Google about AdSense
2) I do a paid post from Google where I get paid $100 per new user I get to sign up for AdSense.
Those 2 posts could be written completely different. Maybe disclosing the exact amounts paid is where we are headed?
Again for instance if a certain Google employee making 100k/yr is blogging about his company on his personal blog thats one thing. But if that same Google employee has stock worth hundreds of millions of dollars then perhaps that should be disclosed since he can single handily move the stock price up or down, do you think he is every going to blog negatively about his company. Where is this going? How in the world are they going to enforce this? I am guessing we will not see 1 case come from this.