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The FTC and blogger ‘payola’
Is the Federal Trade Commission going too far in making bloggers disclose all their freebies?
 

The Federal Trade Commission is trying to make “word-of-mouth endorsements on the net easier to believe,” said Ryan Singel in Wired. That’s a laudable goal, but its solution—fining bloggers up to $11,000 per post for not disclosing if they have a financial interest in the product they’re writing about or if it was a freebie—seems “confusing, ambiguous, and likely unenforceable in the real world.”

Sure, “blogging Payola is unlikely to go away completely because of these new rules,” said Frederic Lardinois in ReadWriteWeb. But hopefully the rules, and threat of a hefty fine, will “bring some bloggers and marketers into line.” As is, “marketers regularly approach independent bloggers (and especially mommy bloggers) with freebies” or other incentives, and “there can be little doubt” that those perks influence the bloggers’ posts.

“I’m all for disclosure, but why should government busy itself with it?” said Stephen Baker in BusinessWeek. We have the same rules, but it’s BusinessWeek “calling the shots.” Reputable blogs will do the same, or lose public trust. That said, this will affect only “a fraction of bloggers”—the “vast majority” of blogs trade in “link love,” paying each other in reciprocal links, not money or free goodies.

On the flip side, bloggers can now rat each other out to the FCC, too, said Caroline McCarthy in CNET News. But “small-time bloggers freaking out” over an FCC crackdown should relax. The rules are broad—they cover celebrities, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets, as well as blogs—but the FCC is more interested in letting everyone know “what’s right and wrong” than hunting down “every Twitter user who may have been given a free toaster.”

 

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