IAB Takes On FTC Over Silly Blogger Disclosure Rules
from the good-for-them dept
While more disclosure is generally a good thing, the FTC’s new guidelines for blogging disclosure have some pretty massive problems, and probably aren’t legal. As more and more people are recognizing this — and interviews with the FTC folks in charge of this suggest they either haven’t put very much thought into this issue or they don’t quite know how the world works outside of their government cocoon — the backlash is growing. Now, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has stepped in with quite the open letter to the FTC, asking them to scrap the rules, while noting (snarkily) how impossible they are to follow, in practice:
So there I was last Saturday, about to send out on my Twitter feed — which automatically updates my Facebook page and links to my personal blog — a photograph of this wonderful baked halibut dish I’d just made as a surprise for my wife. I was in the middle of typing a rave review of the recipe, which I’d pulled from my favorite cookbook, Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas. But before I could press the “post” button, I stopped and canceled the whole thing.
I remembered that the book was a freebie, sent to me by an editor at the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house 13 years ago. And I didn’t want you guys to haul me into court and fine me for violating the rules you’ve just promulgated to muzzle social media.
While this may seem silly, it really does highlight the problems with the FTC’s rules. They’re totally unclear and absolutely could concern things like this. Getting a free book here or there happens all the time — and the FTC actually claimed that if people don’t return them, then they may face sanctions. That’s ridiculous. Last month, we ran a fun contest for people to win free copies of a Kevin Smith book. If the winners from our comments mention that book anywhere online, do they need to mention they got the book for free? If they mention it to a friend, do they need to do the same thing? Because most of the time when posting stuff online, people really are just talking to their friends.
Again, it’s not clear why people can’t just sort this out themselves. People who post bogus reviews of things because someone pays them to, or because of something “free,” are going to get called out on it eventually and lose their credibility. When people talk amongst friends, they don’t reveal where they got the products they talk about, or if they happened to get a promotional sample — and that’s fine. While you can understand where the FTC is coming from, it really has gone overboard with these rules.