Worried about the FTC going after your blog?

One of the big discussions both here at Blogworld Expo and in the blogosphere in general is the implication of the new Federal Trade Commission’s new regulations for online advertising practices from the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The regulations seem to address the issue of disclosure: if I give you a copy of my book and you write about it, you have to let your readers know that. If I buy you dinner and then you write about my book or reference my site, you have to disclose that. And so on, and so on.
Problem is, this FTC guideline has gotten more and more onerous in the echo chamber of the blogosphere, and bloggers are getting a bit paranoid about the implications.
Luckily, it appears that this paranoia is misplaced, so you can all take a deep breath. Earlier this week – Oct 14th, 2009 – Mary Engle, associate director for advertising practices at the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, had a conference call with reporters to clarify the situation and here’s what she said:
“We’re not going to be patrolling the blogosphere, we are not planning on investigating individual bloggers.”
Engle emphasized that what they’ve released are new guidelines. “They aren’t rules and regulations, and they don’t have the force of law. They are guidelines intended to help advertisers comply with Section 5 of the FTC Act [PDF]” which focuses on unfair or deceptive practices.
So it’s not the rebirth of the Blog Police as the Disclosure Police, as I tweeted earlier while listening to a panel on this subject here at Blogworld, but it is nonetheless a reminder that you should still be transparent anyway. If a vendor pays $200 to write about their product, don’t run away in terror, just let your readers know.
And that’s what this brouhaha is all about anyway: just be transparent and disclose what’s going on, and you’ll be in the clear from both the FTC and ethically on the right side of things too.

2 comments on “Worried about the FTC going after your blog?

  1. And that’s what this brouhaha is all about anyway: just be transparent and disclose what’s going on, and you’ll be in the clear from both the FTC and ethically on the right side of things too.yes!

  2. Well, there is the statement above that goes:
    “They aren’t rules and regulations, and they don’t have the force of law. They are guidelines intended to help advertisers comply with Section 5 of the FTC Act.”
    and then there are many other places on the internet that explicitly state exactly what the penalty will be for non compliance of these so called “guidelines”. An $11,0000.00 fine to be exact.
    Therefore, this is a complete contradiction. You can’t impose an $11,000.00 fine for an infraction on something that is not a law. People don’t get fined for not adhering to a ‘guideline’.
    Laws are things that are manditory to obey. Guidelines are not. Therefore, the above article makes no sense, and is a complete contradiction to everyone else’s definition of ‘guidelines’.

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