FTC Decides Bloggers Must Disclose Payments For Writing Reviews

October 5, 2009 by Chuck | 1 Comment

As of December 1st, the FTC has ruled, Bloggers must disclose whether reviews are “paid”.

Penalties of up to $11,000 per violation are possible, but the FTC did not disclose just how the disclosures were to be made! Duh!

I’ve been trying to find out what it means to be “paid” under this ruling.

Here’s the response to that from the Reason Foundation at the prospect of this ruling from which I quote a segment:

Bloggers who test and review products, get freebies from companies, or make money from clients have been warned: the government is watching you.

In a move that would mark a major step into regulating online speech, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is planning to issue guidelines for individuals who write, review or comment about commercial products and services on their own blogs or in the comments sections of websites.

The FTC rules would require bloggers and commenters to back up any claims they make and disclose whether they received any pay or benefits from the companies they cover. Some of the things bloggers might have to disclose to the feds include any gifts or direct payments, companies who buy advertising on the blog or site, and commissions on “clickthroughs” they receive from website ads. Failure to disclose such arrangements could mean substantial fines and potentially staggering legal costs.

Here’s another vague article trying to discern what’s going on from Tampabay.com.

So far, everything is “as clear as mud”.

What’s “payment”? Free samples? Cash? The use of a product for testing purposes? Google Adsense click throughs? Affiliate links?

But keep on top of the issue and every blogger must develop a strategy for this new encroachment on their speech.

Some legal types went on record as telling the Arizona Republic that:

Anyone using digital media such as Twitter, Facebook or a personal blog to write about a product or service could be held liable for making false or unsubstantiated claims, Bayton said.

They also could be sued successfully for lying about their opinion or use of a product or service, she said.

In addition, they would have to let readers know if they had been paid to write a review or endorsement, received free products or services, or had a relationship with the company.

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