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FTC to bloggers: Disclose the source of that cash

In June, we wrote that the Federal Trade Commission was considering new disclosure rules for bloggers. At issue: Unreported behind-the-scenes deals between writers and corporations, which can have a sizable impact on the substance and tack of any given blog.

On Monday, the FTC issued a set of revised advertising rules, which require publishers to publicly reveal any “material connections.” In a statement, the FTC said that “a consumer who purchases a product with his or her own money and praises it on a personal blog or on an electronic message board” would not be in violation of FTC guidelines.

But the commission did issue a series of scenarios where a blogger or website would be subject to penalties, including this one:

A young man signs up to be part of a “street team” program in which points are awarded each time a team member talks to his or her friends about a particular advertiser’s products. Team members can then exchange their points for prizes, such as concert tickets or electronics. These incentives would materially affect the weight or credibility of the team member’s endorsements. They should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, and the advertiser should take steps to ensure that these disclosures are being provided.

“The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement,” the FTC said. “Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Susan Lesch on 10/06/2009 - 11:22 am.

    Matthew Shaer, I don’t know if you’ll get this comment, but thank you. It’s very very good news. Nobody could ask bloggers to self-police, so I do think this is a proper role for government. Hurray!

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