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You may remember me reporting a while ago that the FTC were looking into bloggers and their “independent” views which are as a result of freebies or gifts.  You may remember that we have exposed these gift receivers before and rightly ask “How much worth can you put into the words of someone receiving gifts?

In my opinion much pro-proprietary software opinion is based on gifts (or the possibility of recieving them) and since the personal blog is looked at a whole lot differently than a mainstream news outlet, its even more important that the views in a blog are those of honest held belief.

It is being reported that the FTC has said:

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that ‘material connections’ (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers–connections that consumers would not expect–must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other ‘word-of-mouth’ marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service

Anyone found to be not disclosing could be liable for a fine of up to $11,000.  This, in my opinion is something which is long overdue.  I’ve said before that the personal blog holds alot more weight (IMO) than the PR sheets or mainstream features of the latest hardware/software.  However it does raise a few questions.  How is this to be policed and investigated?  How will the fines be imposed? and also What is the geographical remit of an FTC fine?  It will be interesting to see how this develops.  One way I suppose would be to insist companies disclosure their marketing contracts and in turn those companies reveal who has received what for free.  Then if that person is running a blog/site without disclosing the FTC can proceed further.

There is a very interesting article here in relation to this.

Of course anyone fined for non-disclosure will be highlighted here.  Honest opinion is not much to strive for is it?  Maybe we will see the end of comments such as “Vista is loved”.  We can but hope.

Goblin –


    Marco said:
    October 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Poor alikes to Andre

      openbytes responded:
      October 7, 2009 at 12:07 am

      I wonder if the threat of fines will lessen proprietary advocacy? I do think though that the FTC should go further and be able to force companies to disclose who gifts have been given to (including contracted PR work to 3rd parties) then, if a breach is found, the company concerned can be fined and exposed.

      We have all seen examples of “word of mouth” advertising when there’s a gift involved. I believe you Marco witnessed the same as I did when we talked over on Microsoft Watch.

      Nice to hear from you again.

    […] reader Goblin wrote this post in relation to Microsoft, which is currently AstroTurfing in Twitter. You may remember me […]

    Yuhong Bao said:
    October 7, 2009 at 5:31 am

    “In my opinion much pro-proprietary software opinion is based on gifts (or the possibility of recieving them)”
    Well, do you mean just Microsoft?
    “Honest opinion is not much to strive for is it? Maybe we will see the end of comments such as “Vista is loved”.”
    I would not go that far.

      openbytes responded:
      October 7, 2009 at 5:12 pm


      I would not seek to generalize and this blog would only name companies/cases when individual cases are proved (or in reference to someone elses facts). Even if a blogger receives a gift and as a result starts promoting that company, one cannot directly blame the company instantly. Each case needs to be judged on its merits.

      When I refer to the end of comments such as “Vista is loved” before we claim advocacy we need to know the basis of the comment made. Was it as a result of gifted opinion? Was it as result of honest held belief or is it simply the poster wants to provoke a reaction…of course the other alternative is its marketing of some description.

      In relation to dishonest marketing Vista (if it exists) I don’t think there can be any harm done. People know Vista for what it is IMO and no amount of Vista is loved comments will change peoples view.

      My favorite “dubious” pro-Windows comment was the one that said “Its a shame Michael Jackson didn’t live to see Windows 7″….

      Yuhong, I would give friendly advice to you and anyone else on the net (especially bloggers) . BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT YOU TYPE. Its very easy to make an off the cuff remark that can be taken further in a civil case and its important to merely present the allegations (in cases where no solid evidence is forthcoming) and only post as your opinion, not fact. This is why you see my writing littered with IMO.

      There have, in the past on this blog been very feeble attempts to trap/trick me into committing to a “fact”. I won’t be drawn and I repeat my stance of doing your own research and forming your own opinions.

        Yuhong Bao said:
        August 7, 2010 at 10:59 pm

        I agree, astroturfing is a very bad thing.

    Marco said:
    October 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I wrote ‘alikes’ because on the practice it could not work (Andre : Jamaica), MS (and others companies) were looking for Blogger abroad USA.

    ‘Nice to hear from you again’
    Thanks Goblin.

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