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 – firstname.lastname@example.org