Federal Trade Commission Looks to Regulate What You Say On Your Blog

Monday, April 6, 2009

Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to once again trample on American's First Amendment Rights. This time it's directed at companies using word-of-mouth advertising via blogs.

"Revised guidelines on endorsements and testimonials by the Federal Trade Commission, now under review and expected to be adopted, would hold companies liable for untruthful statements made by bloggers and users of social networking sites who receive samples of their products.

"The guidelines would also hold bloggers liable for the statements they make about products," says David Gelles in an article he published April 2, 2009, titled Advertisers Brace For Online Viral Marketing Curbs.

So what exactly does this mean for a review blogger?

"If a blogger received a free sample of skin lotion and then incorrectly claimed the product cured eczema, the FTC could sue the company for making false or unsubstantiated statements. The blogger could be sued for making false representations," says Gelles.

Can you image the impact that this revision will have on your average mommy blogger?

It's no secret that Mom blogs are the fastest growing blog type. Why? Because advertisers can't get enough to spread the word about their products. Of course, now that is sure to change.

When (and it is when not if) this revision takes effect, advertisers will undoubtedly drastically reduce the number of Mom blogs used as a means of advertising. Even if they don't wish to do so, I'm sure their liability insurance companies will require them to do so. After all, it's just to risky; a loose cannon, if you will.

And speaking of liability insurance...how many mommy bloggers are really in a position to purchase liability insurance? After all, most of us are simple stay at home moms, living on one income, and blogging as a way to bring in a little something extra to the household.

Quite frankly, I see this as a violation of my First Amendment Rights! Isn't it my right to say as I wish about a product or service I've used?

For example, Krista of Boutique Flair at discussion held on this subject at Mom Bloggers Club (MBC), "While I'm all for cracking down on companies that promise miracles via their product and hoodwink people, I think this has always been an issue, web or not. I remember my very wrinkly great-grandma slathering herself with Oil of Olay in hopes of fighting wrinkles. Did it work? Maybe for some, but not for her."

Without a doubt, there are many who feel strongly that Oil of Olay, just as an example, does fight wrinkles or create smoother, younger looking skin; otherwise, Oil of Olay would be out of business. And isn't it those individuals rights to say so when they've used the products and feel strongly that they've seen such results? Even if they received a free sample in exchange for a written review from the company?

This most likely comes about as people are like to litigate over the most trivial of matters; even more so in a slow economy, as we are experiencing now.

The only way to save the reviewing Mommy blogger, may be to introduce the idea offered by member Maternal Spark during the previously mentioned MBC discussion, "I think bloggers can overcome this by simply using a disclaimer....'this post is my personal opinion and does not represent the opinion of the sponsor company. My experience in using this product may not reflect your experience...blah blah blah.'"

While the majority of bloggers would gladly be willing to include such a caveat in their review, I personally feel it's ridiculous. Blogs are nothing but personal opinions; why is it necessary to state the obvious?

Oh that's right....because there are those out there who believe everything they read.

Maybe instead of regulating blog advertising, we should regulate stupidity.

4 chatted about this topic:

Molly April 16, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

As a mom blogger myself, I find this really disturbing. When you figure out how to regulate stupidity let me know...

Rebecca April 16, 2009 at 4:23 PM  

Sadly you can't fix stupid ;)

Kim April 17, 2009 at 8:40 AM  

I'm sure this will be highly unpopular, but I actually agree with the FTC.

Bloggers say they're simply expressing their opinions, right? But if they're PAID for those opinions, how unbiased are they really?

You can't want the benefits a journalist receives (First Amendment) but not want to abide by journalist's rules (not accepting gifts or financial compensation from sources).

Thogek September 6, 2009 at 3:39 AM  

"Why is it necessary to state the obvious?"

You mean like:
"The coffee you purchased through this restaurant drive-through might be hot."

Yeah, apparently so.

People have grown increasingly mentally lazy, and government increasingly protects them and bails them out from their own laziness, encouraging them to grow more mentally lazy, encouraging government,...

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