Originally posted by finnegan
Other questions I have about this is whether it will stretch to bloggers who are not advertising anything. How do they decide who they hit? There
may be millions of blogs or message boards, I don't see how they could possibly track them all. Why should one person get hit by the FTC for
something minor and not another who is committing fraud?
There are two ways this can be enforced.
Through the IRS, or how the FTC usually handles things in the past, by investigating claims of violation.
If a manufacturer pays someone to write a review, then that manufacturer is most likely doing so with a check. There is an audit trail to prove that.
If I read a blog that is promoting some new fandangled gizmo and they don't post the gratuitous disclaimer of "This review was paid for by ACME
Manufacturing" in their blog review, and I find it awfully hard to believe that this new fandangled gizmo can do what it says, especially when I
bought the device and it didn't work as reviewed, I can write to the FTC who will then look at the blog, and subpoena the manufacturer and the bank
of the blog owner to see if they did receive payment for the review. If so, it's a big fine for trying to pull a fast one. If they didn't receive
money, and were just blogging out of their backsides, then no fine.
With existing Truth in Advertising laws, it assumes that the Marketing Department of the Manufacturer is making those false claims. If ACME
Manufacturing says that their gizmo can bring about World-Peace and julienne your vegetables, and it doesn't, you can go after the Manufacturer.
However, if a Blog Reviewer gets paid by the Manufacturer to make those claims for them, you can't go after the Manufacturer, because ACME never said
it could bring about World-Peace...some blogger did. Therefore, if Corporations can't lie because of Truth in Advertising, they find a loophole that
allows them to get other people to lie for them.
And that is what this seals up. A loophole that has been exploited in this Information Age.
If you are a Blogger who isn't receiving money or gifts for what you Blog about, then you have nothing to fear. The FTC has no business with either
you or your Blog as you are a non-commercial enterprise. The moment you accept money or gifts from advertisers, then you have to be open about that
relationship when "reporting" or blogging about that advertiser, or you face a fine.
Legitimate Journalists already have a code where they do this. Ever see CNN do an expose of a company that is a subsidiary of their own parent company
Time-Warner? They'll state, at the beginning of the article, "World Championship Wrestling, like CNN, is a subsidiary of Time Warner". Likewise,
they'll do the same when doing an article for a company they accept paid Advertising from "Disclaimer: Sega is a paid advertiser for CNN". Since
Bloggers have been granted the same protections accorded Journalists, which is a good thing, the downside is that commercial Bloggers are now held to
the same Journalistic standards of openly disclosing conflicts of interest, bias, and "reporting" vs. paid advertising.
For 99.9% of the Blogs out there that don't receive a dime of money or gifts, this change affects them in no way, shape, or form.
For 100% of Consumers however, it means that if a Blogger claims that Windows 7 out-performs Vista in 8 out of 10 Benchmarks, then you can believe it,
unless they claim that their review was paid for by Microsoft (and if they don't claim Microsoft paid them for the review and you find Windows 7
doesn't out-perform anything in any Benchmark, you can report them to the FTC to investigate).
This is a good idea, and it is almost universally accepted as a good idea. The only negatives I've seen against this are the vagueness of the rules,
which could be used to apply to anything you might say in your blog about your own employer if you don't disclose that. What that means is even
Whistleblowers could be fined, if they don't disclose that they are a current employee, which could put them in hot water with their employer if they
It is important to have rules that aren't vague as they would otherwise be misused or abused in the future, even if the FTC has good intentions at
heart in passing these Rules (which there does not appear to be anything nefarious behind it...it really does appear to be of the best intentions,
just written by an Agency that really has little understanding of the Digital World, and even less foresight of how quickly that Digital World
The FTC Rules are going in the right direction, it's merely a matter of whether their vagueness could become a slippery slope or not, not the spirit
of the Rules themselves.