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FTC States Bloggers Must Disclose Paid Reviews

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the competition-for-best-review-reward-begins-now dept.

Businesses 310

An anonymous reader writes to tell us that in the first revision of how endorsements and testimonials work since 1980, bloggers will now be required by the FTC to clearly disclose freebies or payments they received for product reviews. "the commission stopped short Monday of specifying how bloggers must disclose any conflicts of interest. The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation. The rules take effect Dec. 1."

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310 comments

Astroturfing. (4, Insightful)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645725)

Maybe the astroturfing garbage will finally stop... or at least be more obvious.

Re:Astroturfing. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29645841)

Oh please. It has not prevented David Pogue fapping over every Apple thing ever. And he writes for NYT.

Re:Astroturfing. (2, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646669)

Except that he hasn't fapped over every Apple thing ever. He pretty convincingly addressed all this with Leo Laporte on a recent episode of TWIT.

Re:Astroturfing. (5, Insightful)

moogsynth (1264404) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645941)

Maybe the astroturfing garbage will finally stop... or at least be more obvious.

That's pretty naive. Of course it will continue. Although it will be obvious to you or me, it will still be somewhat deceptive. They'll probably try and portray the freebies themselves as positive endorsements for Company X. "Luckily for me they even included a stylish bag to carry it around in! These will be sold separately and I must say they look super stylish!!!!1"

US only (4, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646573)

The FTC rules only apply to people in the US. Once again this is an example of how one country's laws are meaningless on the Internet. They will simply pay non-Americans to astroturf. You cannot tell whether someone is typing with an American accent on the net - although cultural references can sometimes give it away.

Re:US only (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646777)

although cultural references can sometimes give it away.

What makes you say that, eh?

Re:US only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646843)

A rose by any other colour...

Re:US only (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646853)

although cultural references can sometimes give it away.

Yada, yada, yada, I have no idea what you are talking about. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go welcome our astroturfing overlords.

Re:US only (1)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646909)

although cultural references can sometimes give it away.

copy + paste = gone

Re:Astroturfing. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29645965)

You're coming to _SLASHDOT_ of all places, and you expect astroturfing to _STOP_? Malda thrives on astroturfing, it's what keeps this site alive. The minute he figured out that hey, I can post an advert for anything I like, call it a story and get the kickbacks, this place went straight down the fucking toilet, and it's _not_ going to stop. You can be guaranteed that Malda and every other bumfuck "Internet entrepreneur" will find a way around this one.

Re:Astroturfing. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646293)

since when is telling the truth trolling?

Re:Astroturfing. (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646651)

I know, don't feed the trolls...

But seriously... if slashdot "went straight down the toilet" -- and you're still here -- that implies you're a turd.

Just thought you should know.

Re:Astroturfing. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646905)

Malda thrives on astroturfing, it's what keeps this site alive.

I guess Apple must have missed his memo then, because I wouldn't exactly call his review of the iPod [slashdot.org] astroturfing ;)

Re:Astroturfing. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646229)

Nothing good will come of this except more $$$ for more government positions or contractors.

Re:Astroturfing. (2, Insightful)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646245)

You should always assume everything you read is biased. If it wasn't biased why would you read it anyways? The best you can do is hope to find someone with your similar biases and even then you still have to make your own decision.

Re:Astroturfing. (4, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646675)

Why would you hope for someone with similar biases?

For something like game reviews, yes, if the reviewer and I have liked the same games in the past then I have a better shot at liking the new game that just got the good review.

However for political and social commentary, what do I get from reading a web log written from the point of view of my own biases? Someone to tell me what I already believe so I can respond with how insightful the poster is?

If I read a web log written from a different perspective, I might actually learn something (I know--scary thought).

At least then when I walk away with my same old biases, they've been positively reenforced by standing up to counterargument rather than coming out of the echo chamber of people who all agree.

Re:Astroturfing. (4, Interesting)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646763)

Good point, I was thinking about reviews, but ended up writing about everything. My point is that full disclosure is generally a worthless charade. Even though this [zerohedge.com] is specifically about investments it's the best explanation of the sham of full disclosure I've seen.

Re:Astroturfing. (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646945)

However for political and social commentary, what do I get from reading a web log written from the point of view of my own biases? Someone to tell me what I already believe so I can respond with how insightful the poster is?

Unfortunately that seems to be the state of the majority of our political discourse. People fill up on web logs that cater to their own biases (Dailykos, Redstate) or watch "news" networks (MSNBC, Fox) that do the same. Why expose yourself to competing points of view when you can join an echo chamber and shout down anyone who dares to disagree with the group think?

Re:Astroturfing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646821)

If it wasn't biased why would you read it anyways?

Because there used to be this thing called reporting. It used to list facts in an objective manner, and was not slanted with the writer's opinions. The benefit of this was it used to let us think for ourselves and form our own opinions, rather than letting others think for us. (Though I do appreciate we may never have actually had that in this country, it would still be nice to have.)

Re:Astroturfing. (5, Informative)

sampas (256178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646259)

The new FTC rules aren't exclusive to bloggers. They cover celebrities, too. You can read the proposed rule changes on the FTC's site here: http://www2.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm [ftc.gov] and in detail here: http://www2.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdf [ftc.gov] . Saying "results not typical" won't make it legal any more. Also, ads will need to disclose sponsored "independent research," e.g. "we paid this doctor $10k to help us sell this garbage." Finally, maybe Slashdot stories could include links to the primary source?

Re:Astroturfing. (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646873)

Saying "results not typical" won't make it legal any more.

Good, every time I see one of those ads for an online computer diagnostic service (name withheld) which claims that it can "immediately diagnose any hidden problems" I always get the urge to create a hidden problem, prove that they can't "immediately" diagnose it, and then sue them for misleading advertising. That little disclaimer is the only thing that stops me.

Also, procrastination and not wanting to actually do that stops me too, it just annoys me to see those commercials because I know that they're just preying on people who don't know any better.

Re:Astroturfing. (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646947)

PLEASE let this be the end of those goddamn Extenze commercials.

enforcement (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646263)

How in the heck do they propose to enforce this? most bloggers are anonymous. Many don't live in the US. Even Cringely doesn't use his real name. And then there is the sheer number. Moreover an underhanded company could easily soak up a few 11K fines (unlikely they would have to pay many).

Re:enforcement (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646327)

Bloggers could soak up multiple 11k hits? Uhhh I was under the perception that blaggers made no money but occasionally whore themselves out for free shit.

Re:enforcement (1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646753)

It's not intended to be enforced. It's supposed to get people used to the idea of the government passing regulations for the internet. We have a White House that can't even stand the idea of people criticizing the president without getting reported to flag@whitehouse.gov. As time goes on, we'll see more and more government control of this crazy, uncontrolled haven of free speech. Basically, the government wants the internet back.

Is it really so hard for people to use their brains and exercise their own judgement when reading a review online? The danger of the internet is that you accept what you read at your own risk, but it's also the reward.

Re:Astroturfing. (4, Insightful)

mrjohnson (538567) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646307)

Not in time to prevent the massive astroturfing campaign for Windows 7, however...

Re:Astroturfing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646371)

I wonder if this includes people who bought gen1 prius, subsequently got priority AND DISCOUNT on gen2 and gen3 where the discount is not supposed to be talked about.

The unregulated internet (1, Flamebait)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646581)

From the future:

Once upon a time, the internet was uncontrolled for a while. In this unkempt jungle, ideas flourished, and free speech of all kinds and from all sides was posted. Then the day came when the government decided to regulate what bloggers wrote. It was just a first step that got people used to the idea of the government making rules for free speech on the internet. As time passed, more laws were created, and eventually, the internet reverted back to its government-controlled ARPANET state--a haven for regulated speech as dictated by the government, provided by the government to post what the government wants to hear. No longer would people exercise their brains and form their own judgements. The government did the thinking for them...

Re:The unregulated internet (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646855)

Actually you're a little off target. The FCC isn't limiting free speech. You can still write any mindless drivel you care to write, if you think it will help to sell your chosen product. The FCC is actually trying to enforce a little bit of "truth in advertising". If Company "X" paid you to form an opinion that is favorable to them, people have the right to know that you're just another talking head prostituting himself to Company "X"

Re:The unregulated internet (1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646959)

It's the FTC.

This is unenforceable. What counts as a blog? How would you report the blog? Do you shoot an email to flag@whitehouse.gov so Obama can get on the case? Will the government employ people to clean up the internet? Will there be an internet taskforce?

Because it's unenforceable, it's a meaningless regulation. All it does is get people used to the idea of the government passing regulations on the internet. They want their ARPANET back. If people get used to the idea of the government having control of the internet, then this crazy experiment of near-total freedom goes away.

Re:Astroturfing. (2, Funny)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646745)

"Maybe the astroturfing garbage will finally stop... or at least be more obvious."

I want to see how that works out on slashdot. It should be amusing.

Anonymous Coward posts:

Linux sucks, only gays want it, only idiots and democrats use it. Apple is for elitest homos and republicans. Unix only works for fossilized fags who dream in binary. MS rocks, Gates is God, and Ballmer is the messiah.

Disclaimer: AC is paid $25 per thousand words by Microsoft corporation to bash Linux and Apple while praising MS.

Re:Astroturfing. (1)

Derwin45 (1643421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646969)

Sen. Bentsen first used it back in the mid-eighties. I'm showing my age. Modern Man [themodernman.com]

Get paid... (5, Funny)

Protonk (599901) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645741)

So we'll be seeing fewer reviews on slashdot, then?

Re:Get paid... (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646085)

I do a lot of book reviews, I don't see that slowing down. I can't imagine anyone thinks book reviewers buy all those books, especially the ones they review before the book is publicly available. I also never imagined that movie reviewers paid to see the films they review, even though they didn't say it explicitly. Adding in some boilerplate about being given a ticket of the film or a review copy of the book isn't a big deal, so I don't care, but I don't think it is really necessary.
 
What else get's reviewed here? Some games sometimes. I think usually everything else is a link to a review done by someone else for the most part. So I don't really imagine it's going to have a huge impact on the reviews that are posted here. Maybe I'm forgetting something though.
 
What I don't see this stopping is the people who get paid to comment in the discussions of those reviews. Or anything talking about various companies products. Who's going to take the time to try and figure out who all those people are and then prove the link between them and their employer?

Re:Get paid... (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646397)

I'm willing to provide a review of the Tesla Roadster for a copy.. ;)

Re:Get paid... (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646425)

I can't imagine anyone thinks book reviewers buy all those books, especially the ones they review before the book is publicly available.

We just assumed you were pirating them.

Re:Get paid... (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646593)

I don't see this solving any problems at all.

I do a lot of book reviews, I don't see that slowing down. I can't imagine anyone thinks book reviewers buy all those books, especially the ones they review before the book is publicly available. I also never imagined that movie reviewers paid to see the films they review, even though they didn't say it explicitly. Adding in some boilerplate about being given a ticket of the film or a review copy of the book isn't a big deal, so I don't care, but I don't think it is really necessary.

Anybody who reviews anything professionally - whether it is for a magazine or newspaper or website or blog or whatever - isn't paying for the stuff they're reviewing.

If it's something that isn't publicly available yet, there'll typically be some mention that AcmeCorp was nice enough to send over a demo model... If it's something that is currently available to the public there may not be a mention of where they got their review copy from, but I don't think anybody out there honestly believes this stuff is being purchased retail.

These professional reviewers might have to add some boilerplate to their articles... Or maybe the website will just add a page detailing their review policies and where the merchandise comes from... But the review process is going to be completely unchanged.

What I don't see this stopping is the people who get paid to comment in the discussions of those reviews. Or anything talking about various companies products. Who's going to take the time to try and figure out who all those people are and then prove the link between them and their employer?

Astroturfing is where this could potentially be useful...

If I go to NewEgg looking for a motherboard, I'm not at a professional review site. There's an assumption that the customer reviews come from real customers - not paid reviewers. I'm kind of assuming that they actually purchased the product for their use. And this is where paid shills cause damage. It's downright misleading.

But, as you point out, there isn't a good way to police this. There will be hundreds of reviews for any given product on NewEgg or Amazon... From hundreds of different people... Who is going to check each of those comments? How will you ensure that people are actually honestly reporting their affiliations and who paid for their products?

And then there's the question of just how far they're going to try to extend this...

If I comment on my blog that the seats in theater X are far nicer than those in theater Y, do I need to mention that I got the ticket to that last movie for free with my reward card at theater X? And if I don't, is theater Y going to be able to make my ISP shut down my website?

What about a comment made on a forum like this? If I were to post my $0.02 about a game that I'd gotten for free, and didn't fully disclose how I got the game, is someone going to be able to get my comments removed?

Or, perhaps, in order to facilitate proper enforcement we'll soon see a new law that requires every blog/username/account be associated with a real human being - verified by SSN or phone number or something.

Excellent. After 8 years the FCC is showing some (-1, Flamebait)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645747)

At LAst!
After 8 years of absolut corruption and wholesale defanging of FCC by Bush, the FCC is truly rising like a phoenix terrifying AT&T, Verizon and now corporate shills.
Good.
Very Good.
My only wish is the penalty for someone not disclosing he is a paid corporate shill should be de-balling.
Simple.

English, motherfucker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646131)

Do you speak it?

Re:Excellent. After 8 years the FCC is showing som (3, Informative)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646531)

FCC =/= FTC.

US only (4, Interesting)

Monoman (8745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645781)

What about bloggers that are not U.S. citizens?

Re:US only (1, Troll)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645963)

Then they don't suffer such fascist oppression. Unless, of course, their country happens to have an extradition treaty with the US...

Re:US only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646179)

Thank god I'm not in one of them..

Imagine having to follow your own legal system, and top of that the ridiculous US system, too!

Re:US only (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646939)

You don't have to follow our legal system if you don't want to do business in the US. If you want to advertise and sell to US citizens, then you agree to operate by our rules. If you don't agree to do that, then don't sell to us. Pretty simple.

Limitations on this? (1)

NYMeatball (1635689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646277)

Then they don't suffer such fascist oppression. Unless, of course, their country happens to have an extradition treaty with the US...

I'm no law expert, maybe someone here is. How exactly does this work when dealing with things like:

  • Non-US citizen blogging on a US owned server
  • Non-US citizen blogging within the USA's physical geographical borders
  • US citizen blogging outside of borders (IE: Canada)
  • US Citizen blogging outside of borders on a machine that resides on a server outside the US

Basically, what are the virtual and physical borders (if any) of this law? Is this going to end up being something else that just gets taken offshore, like all the internet gambling sites today seem to be doing?

Re:US only (4, Informative)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646279)

Last I checked, most places won't extradite you for things that aren't crimes in their legal code, especially when you did the deed in that country in the first place.

Re:US only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646933)

Not quite the same thing but getting close... http://ca.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idCATRE58R5ER20090928

Re:US only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646335)

Yeah, because requiring people to disclose the fact they pretend to be joe average consumer but actually got paid, cash or *otherwise* to be a shill is sooooooooooooo fascist.

Sorry, but when it comes to the thick layer of scum that covers all forms of advertising these days, its pretty hard to defend it with a straight face.

Re:US only (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646851)

What do you think Gitmo and all those secret renditions are for? If you're not a citizen, they can hold you forever without charging you with anything. Unauthorized communications are all suspect. So then, what defines a "blogger"? Anybody who makes a comment on the internet?

What about politicians? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29645787)

Stop calling it lobbying and call it by its real name: bribery. Will the politicians be fined to death in slices of $11K?

Re:What about politicians? (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645907)

How is this about politics? I thought this was about bloggers and reviewers of products? Or do politicions and their parties also get in on that act?

Re:What about politicians? (2, Insightful)

doom (14564) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646619)

How is this about politics? I thought this was about bloggers and reviewers of products? Or do politicions and their parties also get in on that act?

It probably isn't about politics at present, but it probably should be. This grand dream of citizens collaborating to share information is going to run up against a wall of paid subversion one of these days, if it hasn't already. Requiring that people disclose who's paying them would be an obvious first step.

But then, we also need a change in the design of these collaborative sites so you really do know who you're talking to... I'm afraid "anonymity" just can't work in the long run. Everyone likes to imagine brave Daniel Ellsbergs hiding from the fascists, but it works even better for the modern-day Goebbels of the world.

A fixed fine is not a good idea. (5, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645889)

Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation. Note to self: require a payment of at least $12,000 to endorse a product in my blog.

Re:A fixed fine is not a good idea. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646223)

They should have gone with an over-100% value instead. Fine them $11000 or 125% of the value of the items/money/services received in exchange, whichever is more.

And the politicians? (5, Interesting)

Neuroticwhine (1024687) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645911)

I may be incorrect on this, but do american politicians need to do the same, i don't believe they do (when considering modern lobbying)?

It's a funny country when the random blogger on the interwebs is held to a higher standard than those that govern.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org] (it looks like ethic reform bills have been repeatedly struck down... surprise on that on eh?)

Re:And the politicians? (1)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646005)

It varies at different levels of government, but public officers are generally under various restrictions for receiving gifts, most of which are much stricter than simply being required to disclose them. That said, I can't imagine this isn't constantly circumvented. Illegal gift giving to legislators was a big part of the Jack Abramoff scandal, however.

Legalized Bribes (2, Insightful)

Dotren (1449427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646221)

IMO, lobbying just needs to be completely gotten rid of as it has become simply a means to legally bribe publicly elected officials into corporate agendas into law.

Same for campaign donations.. every attempt, that I've seen, to put restrictions on either of these practices has been quickly circumvented.

Re:And the politicians? (2, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646451)

A lot of information about politician's donors has to be disclosed. That's how sites like www.opensecrets.org are able to function.

There was a bit of a flap during the 2008 presidential race because a higher percentage (somewhere around 25-30%) of Barack Obama's donors than normal were below the $200 limit where the donation had to be reported in detail. But in general, the data is out there.

Although I've always liked the proposal to have politicians dress in outfits similar to NASCAR drivers with their various corporate sponsors emblazoned right on their clothing. At least those guys are honest about who pays the bills.

What's a blogger? (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645951)

So what exactly constitutes a "blogger", or a "paid review"? If I post a twitter update, is that a "blog"? What about a note on facebook, is that a blog? What if I don't call it a blog, but call it a public diary instead?

Re:What's a blogger? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646103)

Someone who posts stuff online.
Receiving anything for free.
It is a micro-blog.
Yes.
It's still a blog.

Re:What's a blogger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646387)

So does that include someone who posts a review on newegg (or any other website with reviews of purchasable products)?

If not, how do you make the distinction between a blog and a website that simply has a user account with the functionality to post content?

If so, does this open up other weird legal issues? For example: there was a mail-in-rebate included with the item, so you must mention in the review the amount of money that you will (hopefully) receive at a later date. How about Newegg combo deals? How about Newegg gifts?

Don't get me wrong - I like the idea of this new forced disclosure, but a lot of terms on the Internet aren't black and white.

Re:What's a blogger? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646597)

I'd say so. A great example would be how Amazon handles this. They get all kinds of free stuff for reviews, which they pass on to customers that are in the Amazon Vine program. Any review written for something they were given to review, gets the Vine Voice tag on it, so that it does not look the same as other customer reviews.

So that would deal with the second part.

I wouldn't see a rebate as compensation unless the rebate was for an amount larger than the purchase price. Combo deals and gifts from a purchase are rarely truly giving anything away - they are just giving a discount. What a retailer can 'give away' with something else, is a clue as to what the margin is on the purchased item.

I'm curious to see what change this brings about and if there are any true surprises. Penny Arcade for example. Those guys are pretty up front about the stuff they get for free. Most of it they end up selling for charity. I doubt they always explicitly differentiate between what they buy and what is sent to them for review. I'll guess they'll need to be more careful now.

I have a book review sites. I don't buy most of the books I review. I also don't do anything on the site to make money so that there isn't an appearance of conflict. But I'm not gonna lie, or compromise myself for a free book. So I don't go out of my way to say, in every review, here's a book that so-and-so publishing sent me. I don't try to hide it either, making it clear on one part of the site how publishers or authors can get in touch with me if they want me to review something.

Re:What's a blogger? (3, Insightful)

Velorium (1068080) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646771)

No. This is applying to reviewers that are getting the reviewed item for FREE OF CHARGE. If you bought the item, then you don't have to bother. The point of this is to make bias due to incentives given by the company/manufacturer a bit more obvious. For example, rewind to 2007. Say John Smith is set on reviewing HP computer that is running Vista and doesn't know much about the system requirements. He's not really looking to spend too much, but is still buying one of the newer computers Vista is being sold on. Because of not wanting to spend extra money, he decides he will go with the option to have only 1gb of ram on the computer. HP knows the system requirements better than John smith does for Vista and says hey, we'll upgrade that to 4gb of ram for free. Because of this possibly subtle but important difference, John's experience of running Vista would be much different than the average buyer only buying a computer with 1gb of ram; and publish his review accordingly. HP and Vista get their good review for throwing in the extra ram, and the average consumer suffers with the computer with less ram, and HP still receiving money from that customer. Was John's intent to be biased or show Vista in a better light? No. But it will show something of the intents of the companies, if not John by notion of this little factoid.

Re:What's a blogger? (5, Informative)

Bazzargh (39195) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646329)

The actual FTC guidelines [ftc.gov] (Section V) don't use the word 'blog' in the guideline itself. Instead, they talk about 'endorsements' and define them like this:

(b) For purposes of this part, an endorsement means any advertising message (including
verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other
identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that
consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party
other than the sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to
those of the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience
the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or
institution.

They give a bunch of specific examples (which do mention blogs), including one of astroturfing which implies this applies to appstore, amazon reviews (which would be nice). It does seem as if they mean things like twitter should be covered. There's also a bunch of circumstances they describe where you don't have to mention your affiliation, eg if you're a sports star with a clothing contract and always wear that brand off the field as well as on, or if you appear in a clearly-labelled advertisment giving a testimonial and are only paid for the ad - its a different if you have a financial interest in the product.

Re:What's a blogger? (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646785)

Lets take the form out of the equation. If you are paid to promote an item, then you must let the audience know that your promotion was paid.

Essentially, any time your "opinion" was influenced by money, then you must disclose it. I think this should be true in all forms of communication. If I write a book bashing the president and was paid by the GOP to write it (not the same as royalties), then I need to disclose this or risk being penalized.

I would not be against a blanket disclosure, so long as its prominent. Just like sites that give honest reviews love to emphasize that they don't accept payment.

Re:What's a blogger? (2, Funny)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646857)

Don't worry. I'm sure the government will be really specific with their definition so that they can't just apply it to anything. I'm sure this won't get abused in any way. I'm sure this isn't just the first step in increasing government regulation of the internet. I'm sure there's absolutely no reason to complain that the freedoms of the internet, good and bad, are going away in favor of increased government control.

Can of worms (4, Interesting)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645959)

What's considered a blog? Is a twitter message included? What about facebook status updates? Affiliate links? It seems that almost every message that mentions a product on sites that make money will now have to include a disclaimer.

Re:Can of worms (1)

viking099 (70446) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646115)

It seems to me that if Apple gives you an iPod for review, then whenever you review it (i.e. make a subjective statement about it) online, you need to disclose the fact that Apple gave it to you.

"Apple gave me this..." (1)

NYMeatball (1635689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646215)

Because 122 characters should be enough for anybody.

Re:Can of worms (1)

Fierythrasher (777913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646269)

Continuing that thought, one huge complaint has been shills placing reviews on sites like Amazon... Is that considered a "blog"? How about audio podcasts? They can't say "blog" and mean "the whole internet everywhere, every content bit"...

Re:Can of worms (1)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646579)

It's pretty opbvious in the text, which actually does not define "blog" or "blogger." in ANY form of print or media, on your web site or someone elses, if you have received freebies or payent of any kind (money , services, discounts, etc), you are now required to state so if you are making an endoresement of that product.

unfortunately, "how" to state so is not defined, so it;s still possible to put in your post "see site for more info." and then there make the disclaimer. It could also be in a sig line, or some abscured method less than obvious. I'm sure this law will soon get soume court guidance on what is and is not a valid disclaimer.

All i can say is, at least they're headed in the right direction. Now if only it was enforceible without massive amounts of patperwork and the efforts of several judges. How do you get a warrent to find out who someone IS, so you can determine if they got paid or not if they do not disclaim it???

Re:Can of worms (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646921)

What's considered a blog? Is a twitter message included? What about facebook status updates? Affiliate links?

All of them [slashdot.org] .

This is great news. It makes quite clear that all forms of endorsement where somebody pretends to be a third party for financial gain are out.

Won't stop all of it of course, particularly internationally, but at least now astroturfers in the US are on notice that their "harmless" activities are going to cost them. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

---

Anonymous company communication is unethical and can and should be highly illegal. Company legal structures require accountability.

DAYUMMM!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646055)

So does this mean we won't see anymore fastmail.fm articles about a service with 10mb+no.spam.filter is somehow competing with gmail?

just wait (4, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646099)

if they ever catch this 'Anonymous Coward' guy, they will throw the book at him.

Re:just wait (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646299)

Throw the book at me? That's fine by me as long as it is one of Bill O'Reilly's or Glenn Beck's fineely insightful political novels. Ah yes, nothing better than enjoying a good, patriotic stint of literature while sipping on a nice, smooth Southern Comfort single malt whiskey. In fact, I can't think of anything that goes with said literature better than Southern Comfort, except of course, reading the literature on the new Windows 7 Dell computers, the American compute, the man's computer!.

(All comments about the products mentioned in this comment were selected voluntarily and resulted in no transfer of funds between the commenter and the makers of this products. All statements in this comment are subject to the loosest interpretation of 'truth' as possible)

This is Crazy (3, Insightful)

colganc (581174) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646101)

I can't believe they're doing this. I don't care if a review is paid or not. If I can't think analytically or critical about a review(er) then I deserve what I get. How does the process even work. Can I go around submitting tons of accusations to an FTC site about any random blog? How are they defining a blog or blogger? How does a blogger defend themselves from accusations? On a separate issue, this is really terrible reporting. There is almost no information.

Re:This is Crazy (1, Informative)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646689)

That's not the point... It's NOT about reviewers. It;s about all the paid trolls kiving items 5 star reviews because they were paid to, so other people thing its a good product and buy it.

Blog and Blogger do not require a definition. Simply, ANY statement of endorsement in print, media, or on the web, where ANY form of payment, discount, freebie, etc was given, with or without a request for a favorablke posting, requires disclosure.

Also, since the penalty is not necessarily on the blogger, but on the company they're blogging on behalf of (if we can find the blogger, they get punbished too), the companies themselves will be seeking a bit more documentation to ensure anyone given a freebe, and especially paid endorsements, are explicity told they have to disclaim so. Companies that have the product wonp;t want negative FTC attention because people are illegally posting reviews of their stuff...

Re:This is Crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646793)

How does the process even work. Can I go around submitting tons of accusations to an FTC site about any random blog?

Much like the CANSPAM Act, or the federal do-not-call list, it probably won't be enforced. The government's goal is to give the illusion of doing something.

Re:This is Crazy (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646979)

There is a world of difference between "I like this product, and think everyone should have one" and "I like this product, and think everyone should have one. PS: they gave me a free one so I could review it. Oh, and 5 big ones in cold, hard cash, too."

It's important information when deciding credibility of the reviewer. And that means it's important to critically think about what the reviewer is saying.

Government check (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646149)

Does that mean I must tell people about my government check when I debunk UFO sightings on the Internet ?

Where does the FCC get the authority? (1, Offtopic)

z4ce (67861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646177)

I didn't think the FCC had much authority over the internet. It's not like its radio waves here. The FCC can't regulate mail or bulletin boards. What statute gives them authority to do this?

Re:Where does the FCC get the authority? (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646247)

From the Federal Communications Commission's "About Us" [fcc.gov] page:

"The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions."

Re:Where does the FCC get the authority? (3, Informative)

Fierythrasher (777913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646251)

Um, it's FTC not FCC...big difference.

Re:Where does the FCC get the authority? (1)

travisb828 (1002754) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646935)

And the FTC gets its authority to regulate interstate commerce from the Constitution.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commerce_Clause [wikipedia.org]

Re:Where does the FCC get the authority? (4, Informative)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646281)

This isn't about the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). It's about the Federal Trade Commission--the FTC.

A blogger is one thing and an advertiser is another. Getting paid in exchange for publishing advertising copy is definitely something that is (and should be regulated).

Re:Where does the FCC get the authority? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646313)

Congratulations! You can't read! We're talking about the fTc, not the fCc.

Re:Where does the FCC get the authority? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646321)

Look at the summary again - FTC

Re:Where does the FCC get the authority? (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646341)

> I didn't think the FCC had much authority over the internet. It's not like its radio waves here. The FCC can't regulate mail or bulletin boards. What statute gives them authority to do this?

If the FCC was able to make such a case of oversight, they gave that up last week when it was announced that the ICANN/US Dept. Of Commerce agreement was coming to an end.

IANAL, but even a layman can see that there's so many legal holes in the FCC's assertion, it's practically a black hole.

Never Mind. (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646435)

I misread. It's FTC. My bad.

Partially About Consistency (3, Informative)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646275)

Doing this brings blogs into alignment with a lot of media paid advertising. No one should worry (or be elated) about the end of these things because even with the "This program is a paid advertisement of XYZ Co..." there are just as many infomercials floating around than there always was.

Advertising isn't necessarily wrong (not necessarily right either but that is another thread). It is when advertising presents itself as something other than advertising that is a problem.

Re:Partially About Consistency (1)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646715)

Or when companies are being PAID to have a small army of people download apps from the app store tand then give them glowing 5 star reviews to pro up their ratings, (or to give 1 star reviews to competitor's apps!) making honest people think a bad app is really good, and devaluing the entire rating system.

This is a good thing... (1, Informative)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646339)

So many blogs and websites are nothing but shills for publishers and vendors and don't disclose it. This should stop unethical companies like Sony sending out their paid astroturfers and viral marketers without it being disclosed.

I also wonder how sites like MMORPG will survive when they have to disclose payments from publishers (like SOE) along with fluff pieces and "interviews" about them.

Free Speach or a Product Review? (2, Insightful)

mounthood (993037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646443)

The FTC is wrong to suggest that a "product review" is some easy to identify thing. If I write that I love the Slap-Chop am I reviewing it? When does it change from opinion to review? Will a lawyer need to review everything before it's posted, or should we trust that government won't try to misuse this?

Writing on the web covers *all* modes, from babel to academic works. Regulating it as commercial is just wrong.

Repeat after me, slowly. (2, Informative)

Kickasso (210195) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646797)

If Slap-Chop Manufacturing And Brain Surgeries Inc. gives you stuff in exchange for your endorsement of Slap-Chop, then you're affected. If they don't, you are not. Does it get any simpler than that?

Re:Free Speach or a Product Review? (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646811)

If I write that I love the Slap-Chop am I reviewing it? When does it change from opinion to review?

If the guys who make the Slap-Chop gave you money for the review, or you work for them, etc... then it's a conflict of interest and you have to say so. If you actually ARE Joe Random Blogger, then it doesn't apply to you.

The whole point is to keep scumbags in the former group from pretending to be in the latter.

Re:Free Speach or a Product Review? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646965)

I don't think the regulation hinges on "product review." The important part is whether you got paid to write the review, or got the slap chop for free. It is very easy to tell when you got paid to say something.

Good luck with that!! (1)

oo_HAWK_oo (1619801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646589)

Like to see you enforce it! HA!

How about in review mags? (4, Funny)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646603)

I worked as a videogame reviewer for a number of years and the amount of bought and paid for "reviews" in that game is just silly. I once panned MGS3 (for being all hype and cutscene and little substance) and got a nasty letter from them stating they would not continue to reimburse me or advertise for our site... we were a totally independent site and took no money or ads in the first place.

Re:How about in review mags? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29646907)

I used to live in the fear that completely trashing a crappy product would end all further support from that particular manufacturer so I would always tread carefully and balance the bad with the good.

Sure there are definitely those out there who will cut you off at the slightest sign of an unfavourable review, but I've utterly berated products with no consequences other than the manufacturers withdrawal from producing further products in the same vein.

Now I'm constantly asked to produce reviews in exchange for freebies from online purveyors of various gadgetry, there's a fine line that it's possible to cross here in terms of tending towards positive reviews to ensure future support and future freebies.

But it's often the high quality links, well written related content, pagerank and other things that these shops are after- even a negative review will push a particular product page further up Google's rankings and benefit both parties. If more amateur bloggers realised this, perhaps they would focus on taking care of their visitors with truthful, unbiased reviews... after all, without traffic we might as well submit our articles to /dev/null.

Bloggers? What about traditional media? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646653)

What about the shills in the media? What about whole companies, think tanks, consultancies whose sole purpose is get paid to talk highly about those who paid them money? You think Gartner would survive without the constantly milking Microsoft to produce dubious "Total Cost of Ownership" and such rot? What about the politicians who blatantly act on the interest of their campaign donors while piously touting the insane, ridiculous, irrelevant nonsense sanctimoniously?

I really want the conflicts of interest disclosed. By bloggers too. But far more importantly the conflicts of interest by media shills, credit rating agencies, politicians, think tanks and policy institutes and lobbyists must also be disclosed, with lot more stringent requirements.

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