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FTC To Monitor Blogs For Paid Claims & Reviews

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the they're-gonna-need-a-bigger-boat dept.

The Almighty Buck 129

PL/SQL Guy writes "Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post. Bloggers vary in how they disclose such freebies, if they do so at all. But now the Federal Trade Commission is paying attention. New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest. Bloggers complain that with FTC oversight, they'd be too worried about innocent posts getting them in trouble, because the common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer — and possibly getting commissions for any sales from it — would be enough to trigger oversight."

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stop crying (5, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423459)

You wanted to replace the "old media", now stop crying. With power comes responsibility.

Re:stop crying (4, Funny)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423511)

Perhaps we need a blog czar. That would be change I can believe in.

Re:stop crying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424129)

I nominate Cory Doctorow. His official title should be the following: [xkcd.com]

Chief Inspector of the Blagonet.

Re:stop crying (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425621)

You hope?

Re:stop crying (1)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 5 years ago | (#28426057)

Perhaps we need a blog czar. That would be change I can believe in.

We don't more government "interference" ruining things for our corporate friends. Don't you know that the "free market" will magically take care of everything?

Re:stop crying (4, Interesting)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423609)

Ok, do members of the old media have to disclose all their potential conflicts of interest? Do they face penalties if they don't?

Re:stop crying (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423921)

Given the number of press releases and just flat-out product advertisements that masquerade as legitimate articles in newspapers and television news, I seriously doubt it.

The larger issue here is that ALL media outlets do this sort of thing, not just blogs. The FTC should oversee this sort of behavior everywhere, as it is dishonest and misleading to have supposedly trustworthy news sources engage in this kind of behavior. The only reason the practice is becoming a problem with blogs is because some blogs have become just as trustworthy, if not more so, as their old media counterparts in the eyes of their readers.

Re:stop crying (1)

fulldecent (598482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424209)

>> The FTC should oversee this sort of behavior everywhere, as it is dishonest and misleading to have supposedly trustworthy news sources engage in this kind of behavior.

Yes, the FTC should regulate blogs and all media outlets in order to increase public trust in them~

Re:stop crying (0)

fataugie (89032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424695)

Yeah.....because when I want the God's honest truth....I take my advice from someone I know nothing about who has a blog on the Internet.

If it's on the Internet....it MUST be true.

Re:stop crying (2)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424951)

Yeah.....because when I want the God's honest truth....I take my advice from someone I know nothing about who has a blog on the Internet.

If it's on the Internet....it MUST be true.

I agree. I tend to side with newspapers full of journalists that uphold a rigorous discipline to maintain their integrity and deliver to me unbiased, objective information. In fact, the minute that information is reported by someone who isn't under the control of an editorial staff, advertisement agencies, corporations, and government, is the minute I stop caring because as we all know, newspapers are here to sell ad supported content, not content supported ads. And the filtration of all the powers that be in the newspaper industry help keep it clean and free of interference from outside sources.

Re:stop crying (1)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423997)

And are those penalties meted out by the government or by their employer? There's a huge difference there. This "review" by the FTC has serious First Amendment implications. I expect this review will be thrown out by the first judge that gets a chance. The FTC simply cannot take over the role played by newspaper and magazine editors in addressing impartiality concerns.

Yes, they do (4, Informative)

tacokill (531275) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424081)

It depends on which media you are talking about. CNN/Fox/MSNBC? Doubtful. CNBC? Absolutely. You can thank Elliot Spitzer for that, whether you like him or not...

There are very stiff penalties in the financial world for not disclosing conflicts. When CNBC has a speaker or guest, you'll notice they put up a disclosure screen that shows information on whether the speaker has any conflicts with the company he is discussing. It's not perfect but it is a step in the right direction. It wasn't always like this....back in the day, there were serious and glaring conflicts that were known but never discussed outside of those "in the know".

One that comes to mind is a stock analyst who's employer does investment banking for the company the analyst is writing about. ie: Citibank does invesment banking business with Wal-mart. The Citibank analyst who covers Wal-mart has a conflict because if he pans Wal-mart, they take their investment banking business elsewhere. So there is a strong incentive for the analyst to write glowing reports, despite whether or not they are true. That is precisely what Spitzer put a stop to. Henry Blodget [wikipedia.org] was the worst offender but he was not alone.

Re:Yes, they do (2, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424261)

Yes, though that's rather specific to the financial industry. The securities market is more (though not nearly enough, apparently) heavily regulated than commerce at large.

Since this is the FTC and not the FEC, it doesn't seem to be as narrowly limited to a particular arena of business. Also, I don't know that similar penalties to the ones that are supposedly to be imposed on bloggers are in place for newspapers, broadcasters, etc.

Re:Yes, they do (1)

badasscat (563442) | more than 5 years ago | (#28428725)

Yes, though that's rather specific to the financial industry. The securities market is more (though not nearly enough, apparently) heavily regulated than commerce at large.

This discussion is about payola. And yes, all broadcast stations are forbidden from accepting payola without disclosing it:

http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/PayolaRules.html [fcc.gov]

The FCC obviously regulates the airwaves, so this wouldn't apply to newspapers, but it does apply to all broadcast stations. There might be some similar rule enforced by the FTC in regard to newspapers, I'm not sure.

Re:stop crying (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424101)

"Ok, do members of the old media have to disclose all their potential conflicts of interest? Do they face penalties if they don't?"

To state the obvious, yes.

Re:stop crying (2, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425585)

This is not obvious. It's the case (as another poster notes) for financial commentary because it has implications in the securities markets.

I don't know if it's the case or not for other topics/genres of media that they're subject to the kinds of regulation that are supposedly being proposed here.

Re:stop crying (1)

SkyDude (919251) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424393)

Oh. come on - the old media is comprised of upstanding, honest folks who dream of doing anything untoward. Isn't it....?

Re:stop crying (1)

cawpin (875453) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424657)

You wouldn't believe what is considered a conflict of interest in the modern newspaper. My wife writes for a large newspaper and some of the stuff they consider a conflict is on the verge of violating her rights as a person. The rules are VERY strict.

Re:stop crying (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424789)

Ok, do members of the old media have to disclose all their potential conflicts of interest? Do they face penalties if they don't?

In general, maybe, in that the FTC has general power to pursue "unfair and deceptive business practice", and there can be some enforcement action against certain abuses. But the kind of specific rules that are proposed for bloggers are not imposed on "old media" by the FTC, despite the fact that the exact practices -- free product given to reviewers, media outlets that offer reviews of the same products that they receive money to advertise, etc. -- at issue with bloggers are the norm in the traditional media, to the extent that there are just a handful of outlets (e.g., Consumer Reports) that do not engage in that kind of activity.

Re:stop crying (1)

barocco (1168573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425149)

Have you considered the possibility that the act of monitoring new media would make it better than the old media? If blogs are turned into blocs of unregulated special interest conglomerates, how different are they from the networks?

Re:stop crying (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425995)

Have you considered the possibility that the act of monitoring new media would make it better than the old media? If blogs are turned into blocs of unregulated special interest conglomerates, how different are they from the networks?

Because it takes an email address to start one? I am far more interested in the FTC protecting American Freedoms and Rights with regard to the management of the medium of communications, not whether all communication is "fair and balanced". Yes, it is some form of Net Neutrality that we need to ensure that any little guy will always be able to express his thoughts to the world through use of the Internet. Failure to protect us from that conglomerate is far more important than to protect us from someone saying something nice because they were paid to do so; I can make informed decisions as long as information is free!

Re:stop crying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424127)

Yeah but they didn't want to become the old media.

Re:stop crying (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424375)

You wanted to replace the "old media", now stop crying. With power comes responsibility.

So when actors endorsed $PRODUCT it was old media and OK, but now that it's bloggers we need to apply the same "old media" rules? Blogging is different then advertising and should have different rules -- or NO rules.

Free Speach is much more important then some FTC fear of everybody being confused on the internet.

Re:stop crying (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424617)

Right, because you thought that Ashton Kucher was generously giving up his free time to advertise Nikon cameras because he loves them so much.

Let's not be disingenuous here. You are a blogger, you have a following. Do your readers have a right to know if your opinion is sincere, or because you are being paid $x behind the scenes to say things about something?

It has nothing to do with free speech. You can say whatever the hell you like. You just have a moral and ethical imperative to disclose ulterior motivations for doing so, if they exist.

I hate the "blogosphere's" circle-jerk of "look at us, we're the new media. I'll link to you, you link to me, and hahaha, CNN is crying about how much power we have". Bollocks.

Re:stop crying (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425317)

Appearing in an AD for a company is not the issue here.

Conducting a supposedly 'unbiased review' of a product, whilst taking money from the manufacturer of said product is a wholly different situation.

Re:stop crying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424633)

I'd have modded you up if you spelled 'speech' correctly.

Re:stop crying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424839)

Blogging is different then advertising and should have different rules -- or NO rules.

Free Speach is much more important then some FTC fear of everybody being confused on the internet.

Except when you are blogging advertisement. Plus, you don't pay for FREE speech.

First product shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28423467)

*Knock knock*

BRB FTC

Conflicts of interest? (4, Insightful)

jadavis (473492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423503)

for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest

Since when is disclosing a conflict of interest a legal requirement? Ethical, of course. But a legal requirement? Aren't people free to express their opinions regardless of what their motivations might be?

Re:Conflicts of interest? (4, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423573)

I'll respond to your comment once you provide a list of your corporate sponsors.

Re:Conflicts of interest? (3, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423733)

I just want to give a shoutout to the people sponsoring my slashdot posting activities.

I'd like to thank my mom, my mom's basement, jolt cola for always being there and apple computer.

Peace out!

Re:Conflicts of interest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28427053)

Re:your sig. That number is listed to Jeff Benson, not Brain James.

Re:Conflicts of interest? (2, Insightful)

Mr_eX9 (800448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424949)

Not if you believe that consumers should be protected from misleading information.

Re:Conflicts of interest? (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425711)

damn socialists! *shakes fists*

Re:Conflicts of interest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424991)

It's a law not against conflict of interest but if it is disclosed or not which is already in the law for certain things including advertising. People are quite free to say what they wish as long as they tell people if they get getting paid by a related party. It's about a law that makes bloggers more responsible under terms journalist are already under.

It's a bit tricky as bloggers tend to have a hughe mix in which some bloggers may fall under journalism while others probably would not and this would be a blanket law that would cover everyone. That being said, it good that conflict of interest is disclosed as it helps prevent misleading comments/articles. Disclosure of such thing is a good thing.

As for advertisment on the bloggers page, it does make it a bit more complicated but it won't affect most sites that uses generic advertisements like google adwords as there really isn't much conflict of interest dealing with random corporations. For sites that are getting paid by the corporation in question, this should be disclosed anyways which i consider good. As stated before, I think it's a good thing in general though how well it turns out depends on how well it defines the gray area.

Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogged (4, Insightful)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423545)

I don't know why anyone believes what is written in a blog without first checking it out. They're opinions given without any standards - professional, ethical or otherwise that apply. On the other hand, people do tend to believe whatever is communicated in any medium - talk radio, television, the internet so I suppose requiring full disclosure or potential conflicts of interest is necessary. So when will the FTC require all broadcast journalists and commentators to disclose their sources of income?

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (2, Funny)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423703)

I'd believe you, but I have now way of checking out your claims.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (4, Insightful)

jadavis (473492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423765)

so I suppose requiring full disclosure or potential conflicts of interest is necessary

It is? It has not been a legal requirement before, as far as I know.

What is worst thing that can possibly happen if we don't pass new laws? People might take bad advice from someone they never should have trusted in the first place, and buy overpriced consumer crap that they don't need, and maybe be disappointed with it.

What's the worst thing that can possibly happen if we do pass new laws? People's legitimate opinions may be silenced on the mere accusation that they aren't disclosing everything that they should. A lot of these bloggers have very little keeping them going aside from personal interest, so even if they are doing everything 100% ethically, an offhand accusation and a letter from a government agency will shut them up quickly. How long before these new laws are applied to public policy opinions, and they can silence underfunded opposition?

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424087)

Irony is completely lost on you, isn't it?

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

hclewk (1248568) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424487)

It's only irony if it's obvious that what you stated is not even close to what you actually believe. I have absolutely no idea what you actually believe, and you make no indication whatsoever in your post that you are being ironic.

So when will the FTC require all broadcast journalists and commentators to disclose their sources of income?

This is obviously ironic because it is an extreme. However,

so I suppose requiring full disclosure or potential conflicts of interest is necessary

is a view shared by others. If I knew you personally, it might be obvious that this is satirical, however, as a random poster on /. ... When I read your post, it seemed to me that you were in support of the FTC regulation, but you were weary of it going further than need be.

Morale of the story: Don't get upset when people misinterpret your poorly constructed attempt at irony.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424785)

So when you read a satirical article or book you assume that certain sentences are satire and that the rest is quite serious? When you hear a long joke, do you only judge the punchline and not the set up? Have you tried parsing at a coarser grain than a single sentence?

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

hclewk (1248568) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425299)

Have you tried parsing at a coarser grain than a single sentence?

So, you are saying that your entire post was satirical?

I don't know why anyone believes what is written in a blog without first checking it out.

I thought you were being serious here, but obviously you really think that it is ridiculous to not believe everything you read in the blog.

In a satirical article or book there may sentences that are serious. These are obvious, however, because said article/book is longer than a few sentences and so there is an overall tone. The same goes for a non-satirical article/book. You know the author's sentiment, therefore it is obvious when irony is used. Like I stated in my original post, there is no way to know your actual thoughts on the subject, because no one here knows you.

In your post, you state:

1) People should not believe everything they read in blogs, because bloggers have no standards.
2) People are inherently gullible.
3) Full disclosure is necessary b/c of #2. (you think this is obviously ironic)
4) Hypothetical about when the FTC will overstep their bounds. (obviously ironic)

1 is your opinion.
2 is an unfortunate sentiment I agree with.
3 is poorly constructed irony.
4 is properly executed irony.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28426237)

This debate is the most interesting thing I've read all day.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 5 years ago | (#28426297)

The most ironic part of this whole thread is that it's not irony you 2 are talking about, but rather sarcasm.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

hclewk (1248568) | more than 5 years ago | (#28426373)

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425769)

if they have little keeping them going, then they have little to declare, they will also be of little interest to the FTC, this is hopefully aimed at taking down FUD blogs and other shills that make it look like some random person's opinions when its in fact paid for by MS/apple/etc.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423867)

As you have written it on /., it must be true.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424115)

Plenty of people blog with high ethical standards. Certainly higher than every disgraced journalist we have seen over history (and it isn't like they are always at tabloids).

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

fulldecent (598482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424377)

But what does our population think about referral links?

Shameless example: fulldecent.blogspot.com

I sometimes post reviews of thing I buy and recommend there. There are undisclosed (readable in the URL) referral links there.

Depending which side of the fence you are on, this could be a widespread abuse.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (1)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424697)

Plenty of people blog with high ethical standards. Certainly higher than every disgraced journalist we have seen over history (and it isn't like they are always at tabloids).

There are no standards that bloggers are held to. There is no recognized profession or board or any form of regulation or governance. There is no entrance exam, qualifications or licensing. It's just an activity anyone with Internet access can do. So only the bloggers' personal standards apply and those vary greatly from one to the other. If you find one that is consistently on the mark and accurate that you can trust, great, but you need to establish that trust first and not just believe everything you read. It's also pretty much true for "journalism" as well with the exception that journalists tend to work for organizations, some of which want good reputations so they enforce some standards. That's why I asked the question at the end of my post.

... or summarized (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424281)

I don't know why anyone believes what is written in a blog without first checking it out.

The next thing you know, some website will start "summarizing" news items, and hordes of people will believe them without first checking it out.

Re:Unfortunately - too many believe what is blogge (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424531)

I don't know why anyone believes what is written in a blog without first checking it out.

See, the problem is that the people you know are the minority that aren't complete idiots.

The IRS is next. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28423565)

Havent been declaring all those 'free' gifts on your taxes have you mister blogger...

Re:The IRS is next. (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423705)

IANAL, but if they are doing it correctly it should probably be listed under the miscellaneous heading. Practically speaking, since mnay of these perks are not money but rather hard objects, getting caught this way is unlikely. On the other hand, a detailed audit might turn this sort of thing up.

Re:The IRS is next. (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424039)

since mnay of these perks are not money but rather hard objects, getting caught this way is unlikely.

One way you can be caught easily is if a company that gave you the items is audited.

The auditor sees that they wrote off two $1000 laptops and a vacation each under advertising expenses to BloggerJoe and BloogerJane, etc. And then on a whim, decides to flag BloggerJoe & BloggerJane for an audit with a note to check whether a suitable amount was reported by them under income.

Shilling, for a shilling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28423603)

That's what it is, that's what it's always been. Bloggers, and most web site (Affiliate link !!) are only there to make a buck or two and have no interest in anything else. Free hardware. free software. free coffee. And those affiliate links, by God !!

It's Simple (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423621)

Full disclosure is a common practice elsewhere and doesn't result in the negative consequences TFA claims people are worried about.

1. Post a disclaimer when you're referencing something that you have no involvement with.

2. Post an admission when you get something from someone you're writing about.

Re:It's Simple (4, Insightful)

jadavis (473492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423919)

Full disclosure is a common practice elsewhere and doesn't result in the negative consequences TFA claims people are worried about.

It's not a legally requirement though, is it? Just because something is ethical does not mean it should be made into law.

The problem is that you're increasing the stakes for everyone that writes opinion blogs. Before, they just had to avoid libel, inciting violence, and other blatantly illegal speech. Now, rival bloggers can stir up suspicion about your blog, complain to the FTC (and maybe get their readers to join in), and then the FTC might sue.

Keep in mind that the FTC files civil suits, which mean that they don't have to have probable cause. They don't need search warrants, because they can just force you to turn things over during "discovery". By the time they realize that you're doing everything legally, you might be out a lot of money in legal fees.

Who wants to be exposed to that kind of risk if they are making peanuts and just doing it out of interest? They will be afraid to make enemies with rival blogs, and just stick to bland observations that don't challenge the opinions of anyone else.

Re:It's Simple (4, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424867)

The problem is that you're increasing the stakes for everyone that writes opinion blogs.

So, you are creating a new barrier to entry to a new market which is currently providing serious competition for an existing market (traditional media) in which there are stong structural barriers to entry already, thus restoring the status quo ante in which the few masters of that established market are secure against much substantial new competition.

Are you sure that's a problem, rather than the purpose?

Re:It's Simple (1)

datababe72 (244918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425737)

Are you sure that old media isn't legally required to disclose when they have been paid to put up certain content? I am not. In fact, I think they probably are- why else would news magazines label those "infomercial" sections they sometimes print as advertising?

If you take money or free product to produce a blog post, you should disclose that fact. I hang out on some mommyblogs from time to time, and there was a big uproar on one blog over the fact that another blogger took money from 23andMe to post about her experiences with their community aimed at pregnant women and new moms. In her post, the second blogger included some statements of questionable scientific validity that, if made directly by 23andMe in their advertising, probably would have brought the FDA and the FTC down on them. But it is fine to spread this disinformation in a blogpost- reader beware, etc. The problem was, the second blogger did NOT disclose her relationship with 23andMe in the post itself, although apparently most of her regular readers were aware of the relationship.

So- should that be legal? What if someone read her scientifically questionable opinions and acted on them, resulting in injury or even death (the opinions dealt with preeclampsia, which can be quite serious)? Sure, they shouldn't have taken medical advice from a blog. But do the blog writer and her sponsors have some sort of legal requirement not to spread false/unproven info? Are you ready for pharma companies to use blogs as a way to make an end run around direct to consumer marketing restrictions?

I'm not saying that the FTC's proposed rule is perfect, or even right. But I do think there is more to it than you imply. Ethical breaches in the marketing of computers is maybe not a big deal worth of laws. Ethical breaches in the marketing of drugs and diagnostics are a different story.

Re:It's Simple (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425969)

"Are you sure that old media isn't legally required to disclose when they have been paid to put up certain content?"

I don't remember ever seeing a game magazine admit that they gave 'This Game Sucks 2' a 95% rating just because of all the advertising the publisher bought that month even though everyone who's seen it knows that it stinks.

In a rational world this whole idea would be thrown out as blatantly unconstitutional.

Re:It's Simple (1)

datababe72 (244918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28426261)

That's not what I'm talking about.I'm not talking about letting the identity of your advertisers influence your content. I'm talking about being paid directly to produce content- which is what a lot of bloggers are doing. In the old school media, that is called advertising. On blogs, it is not even disclosed.

I think, but I am not sure (and don't care enough to go look it up), that if a magazine takes money to include content, it is required by law to label that content advertising. This is why many articles in scientific journals are labeled "advertising"- the authors pay page fees.

Spend $2 to recover $1 - Gov't at work (3, Insightful)

realcoolguy425 (587426) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423635)

Get used to it. We have a Gov't now that will look for any loose scrap of spare change, and will be will to shake you by the ankles to find it. I find it relatively despicable, but not in any way surprising. Maybe if the Gov't took more of an interest in not impeding the trade of goods and services to the degree it does, high taxes, over-regulation [literally picking winners and losers, and running companies themselves at this point] that maybe, just maybe the recession we're in wouldn't be nearly as bad. That maybe we'd have a market where I can find work that actually relates to my 2 year degree, instead of just picking up the 'anything that is available' kind of work that I am doing now.

I'm not laying this on Obama in any way. We've been on this path of gov't overspending, and over-intervening for awhile now. Although Obama looks to maybe take these things to a whole new level, and he does have support in congress to do so. I just find it interesting that they're going after things that are quite small, and will end up investing likely more resources than they get out of it.

Re:Spend $2 to recover $1 - Gov't at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424149)

What does any of that have to do with TFA? This is a misguided attempt to protect consumers from misinformation by the FTC, not a misguided attempt to money-grub by the IRS.

I think you're confused.

Oh, geez (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28423653)

Should the government really be allowed to regulate what you put on your personal website, truth or fiction? What happened to the unregulated internet?

Good Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28423655)

Good luck attempting to monitor every single blog that posts "suspicious" commercial endorsements. It'll be enough of a challenge to figure out which ones even have real people working on them versus automated systems just posting ads and random reposted content from other blogs.

If you can even manage to do this effective, my hat's off to you, FTC.

geeks have no monopoly on morality (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423701)

Dont you read slashdot replies?

My comment can be summed up in four words.... (4, Insightful)

8127972 (73495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423731)

Good luck with that.

There's no chance that this would ever work and the only people they would catch are the most blatant offenders. One other thing that springs to mind, what about blogs run by people outside the US. Does it affect them if they write a review about a US company?

"Most Blatent Offenders" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28426303)

the only people they would catch are the most blatant offenders

I see that you misspelled "most hostile to the Obama Administration and its financial backers."

Or did you learn nothing from the firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin for the "crime" of investigating a high-profile Obama supporter for fraud involving taxpayer funds? [washingtonpost.com]

Re:"Most Blatent Offenders" (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28427369)

Wow, I am shocked. I got 2/3 of the way down this page before someone tried to blame Obama for this. Come on Slashdot, you can do better than that!


Just think of what the situation would be if Hilary would have gotten the VP slot - the right-wingers would be positively foaming at the mouth that they could rip into Obama AND a Clinton at the same time!

Take blogs for what they are (2, Insightful)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423747)

Sites created by people like you and me, who happen to have a lot of free time in their hands, and like to do something useful with it instead of reading/posting to /. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, and NO blog should be seen as an authority on anything.

If a blog gives too glowing reviews of whatever product, try to corroborate the opinion by reading another blog, or product review.

As for TFA, goodluckwiththat.

Small time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28423753)

Free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards....
A British MP would have all this by lunchtime and still feel they deserve a £300 dinner and £1000 a night stay in a 5 star hotel!

Btw, I know Britain is in Europe and therefore doesn't require any travelling to get there :P

Is the inverse true? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28423757)

If I name-drop a company in a blog post and that triggers an investigation by the FTC, does that mean I was entitled to commission by the company and can therefore collect on it?

This post brought to you by Carl's Jr.

Re:Is the inverse true? (1)

MaerD (954222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424285)

Ah, but you disclosed a relationship with them.. You first need to go "Carl Jr's is great" without disclosing it's brought to you by said company. Then the FTC investigates, and then you can try and get compensation....
Wait.. something here still seems backward.

Bloggers: (1)

uofitorn (804157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28423875)

You're not that important. And if you are, then you have the resources to deal with the inquiries you might attract.

Not sure gov't is needed here (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424063)

I'd definitely like to see bloggers identify when they get financial compensation from a company. Especially if the blog is running a review on a product/service. I wouldn't want to buy a product only to find out that the blogger was paid $100 to rewrite some boilerplate company-supplied text into their own style. On the other hand, I'm not sure that the government needs to step in here. Perhaps if, on a case by case basis, it is found that a company is buying many positive reviews and using sleazy tactics to silence critics, but otherwise full disclosure should be a "best practice policy", not an "enforced by the Federal government rule."

It's all about disclosure (1)

Synn (6288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424099)

Any time you have a source of communication that has a lot of eyes or ears on it, whether it's a celeb talking on the radio, TV, a blog, or even twitter, people are going to want to leverage that source for ads. It's really not a big deal, and actually it's a healthy thing(it pays the bills so these people can keep doing this), so long as there's disclosure.

If there's disclosure then readers can make up their own mind about the writer's credibility.

The big hubbub right now is that this has been moving away from the big names(for example, Slashdot has sponsors) into the everyday blogger. You don't have to be TechCrunch to make money blogging anymore and now that it's gotten pervasive, keeping it ethical has become the hot topic.

Wait one fucking second... (3, Insightful)

shellster_dude (1261444) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424211)

When has there ever been any expectation of reliability or accuracy in blogs? If I want to accept kickbacks and from someone and write my heart out about how wonderful they are, that is my own business. No one should ever take a blog at face value. If they do, they deserve to be duped. I can only see this making any kind of sense, if the blogs in question purport to be legitimate and fact based.

Political move? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424265)

I remember back when Yahoo's management were still equipped with spines and allowed users to comment on news stories, that the number of duplicate and near duplicate theo- and neocon posts grew like topsy, particularly around election time (circa 2002, 2004). Somebody was obviously paying for this, given the spam-like volume. I suspect this is a not so subtle propaganda suppression technique.

Will this get to the bottom of Groklaws $50k... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424279)

....she didn't say yes, but she didn't say no. Would this scheme increase transparency in such cases?

Bread and Butter (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424295)

I think the only people that would be willing to jump through all the loop holes required by the FTC would need to make enough money off their blog that its their job. There are very few that can accomplish this. This will stifle free speech more significantly then the benefits it will reap. I honestly don't understand why they would want to try this.

Re:Bread and Butter (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424777)

I honestly don't understand why they would want to try this.

Have you tried reading your own post? Specifically:

This will stifle free speech more significantly then the benefits it will reap.

I'd argue that's exactly the point here.

Old media too ? (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424311)

So they want to bust bloggers who accept bribes, but does the FTC plan to go after every single goddamned magazine ever ? It's not like Gamespot invented the practice. I can think of very few print publications that I consider "impartial", at least to a degree where I can soundly make purchasing decisions based on their reviews.

The FTC should be monitoring the channels and their operation, not the content therein.

standard reply (5, Funny)

fulldecent (598482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424339)

========= please use s/email/blog/s below =============

your post advocates a

( ) technical (X) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

approach to fighting spam. your idea will not work. here is why it won't work. (one or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

( ) spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
( ) mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
(X) no one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
(X) it is defenseless against brute force attacks
( ) it will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
( ) users of email will not put up with it
( ) microsoft will not put up with it
( ) the police will not put up with it
(X) requires too much cooperation from spammers
( ) requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
(X) many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
( ) spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
( ) anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

specifically, your plan fails to account for

( ) laws expressly prohibiting it
(X) lack of centrally controlling authority for email
( ) open relays in foreign countries
( ) ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
( ) asshats
(X) jurisdictional problems
(X) unpopularity of weird new taxes
( ) public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
( ) huge existing software investment in smtp
( ) susceptibility of protocols other than smtp to attack
( ) willingness of users to install os patches received by email
( ) armies of worm riddled broadband-connected windows boxes
( ) eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
( ) extreme profitability of spam
( ) joe jobs and/or identity theft
(X) technically illiterate politicians
( ) extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
(X) dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
( ) bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
( ) outlook

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

( ) ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
( ) any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
( ) smtp headers should not be the subject of legislation
( ) blacklists suck
( ) whitelists suck
( ) we should be able to talk about viagra without being censored
( ) countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
( ) countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
( ) countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
( ) sending email should be free
( ) why should we have to trust you and your servers?
( ) incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
( ) feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
( ) temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
(X) i don't want the government reading my email
( ) killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

furthermore, this is what i think about you:

(X) sorry dude, but i don't think it would work.
( ) this is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
( ) nice try, assh0le! i'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

Re:standard reply (1)

Sparton (1358159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28427541)

( ) we should be able to talk about viagra without being censored

Shouldn't this one be checked?

Fascism for the win (1)

noddyxoi (1001532) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424429)

thou shall not publish what is not the true ! there is no evil to report !

FTC to regulate Amazon.com reviews too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424483)

So does this mean that all the reviews on Amazon.com and other "review" sites are going to be regulated by the FTC? I know that a lot of those companies pay people to add reviews to their products. Heck I was in a book club that required us to write a review of the book we were reading on Amazon. Are we all then considered contributors and now is Amazon liable for what those reviewers say? I can see this getting out of hand with an over zealous FTC.

Motor Trend? Car & Driver? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424543)

How are they different? I mean, every 'review' is just full of varying degrees of 'good'. Even the cars that clearly crappy, get something like 'this car was okay'. They would never give any direct negative information about their only significant revenue stream. I don't see why a blogger who got a free iPhone to blog about how awesome his iPhone is would be held to a higher standard.

Re:Motor Trend? Car & Driver? (1)

Synn (6288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424817)

How are they different?

Because instead of being a "professional" that that gets influenced by their revenue streams it's now every mom on Typepad getting influenced by revenue streams. The big players don't like that, so they've cried about it over the last couple years and now it's an "issue" in the industry that's been chatted up over the last year or so at conferences.

Self Regulating already... (1)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424553)

If there is one thing the Internet is good at, it is calling BS. If someone makes a bogus claim there are a thousand others ready to jump down their throats telling them how wrong they are for making such a bogus claim. We don't need more FTC regulation...

SOP (1)

lee1 (219161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28424713)

"Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post." Don't forget free software and advertising [lee-phillips.org] . The sleazy practice [markbernstein.org] of offering advertising income to people who have nice things to say about a product is pretty well established by now; I doubt many readers are fooled.

Get over it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28424813)

" Bloggers complain that with FTC oversight, they'd be too worried about innocent posts getting them in trouble, because the common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer -- and possibly getting commissions for any sales from it -- would be enough to trigger oversight."

So whats the problem? Don't post adds or links for money. Get over it!

Internet veracity (2, Insightful)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425033)

We must protect at all costs the reliability of information online! Imagine if you had to question the veracity of everything you read! I wouldn't have the first clue what to buy!

save me, gubment! (3, Funny)

mattwarden (699984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425573)

Save me, government! I can't tell the difference between real journalism and paid advertisements, but I believe you can! Save me from my own incompetence!!!

Double standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28425759)

Actually, I like this standard. I just wish it also applied to advertising dollars as a source of COI. Yes I'm talking about GameSpot. What bloggers receive to astroturf is peanuts in comparison to what the review sites receive for the same thing.

I sure do love... (2, Funny)

hessian (467078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28425907)

...this refreshing Pepsi!

ktog.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28427007)

Woohoo, hopefully this will cut down on the number of paid shills on ktog.org. That used to be a good site until Kel-Tec ruined it.

The only thing the Gov does well is spend your $ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28427033)

Great another stupid law that will require 500 more salaried government people to monitor, report and over all waste our money with something that is really unenforceable anyway... we'll just throw more civil liberties out the window along with our tax money.

FTC should kill lots of sites (1)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28427077)

The FTC should kill all of those fake review sites that are 100% paid advertisements. Like for hosting providers, marchant accounts (accepting credit cards), and I'm sure there is a whole host of others. It's damn hard to find real information on which of these companies are worth a damn and it's all because they flood the search engines with all that garbage.

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