Product-pushing bloggers must fess up by December 1
Starting December 1, bloggers promoting any kind of stuff from a company must admit if they got cash or gifts to do so. This means blogging will be goverment-regulated for the first time. The new rules don't apply to you if you tried the new Italian restaurant down the street and go onto your own personal blog to rave about how it was the best meal ever. They do apply to you if the restaurant gave you a big discount, a free meal or other goodies just to spur you to rave about it in your blog. This means bloggers must follow the rules, care of the Federal Trade Commission, that every advertiser already does now, making information they give about products more accurate for those of us reading them. (Uos WalletPop bloggers have to follow traditional journalism rules when it comes to our posts -- we don't take cash or gifts from companies to write about them, we just write the cold, hard truth and our honest opinions.)
So now the FTC will require that bloggers clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products. It's also cracking down hard on company websites that feature testimonials from users, the "I tried these pills and lost 40 pounds in just 10 days!" type. Now the testimonial must spell out what people should expect when they use a product or service, not just have a disclaimer with "results aren't typical" in small print.
Advertisers and endorsers who don't disclose the financial connections or make false claims could be slapped with a fine of $11,000 per violation. However, bloggers shouldn't panic that much -- a FTC official told the Associated Press that the organization will more likely go after the advertiser instead of the blogger. Still, it will be nice to know there will be a little more truth written up on the Internet. So after December 1, you can put a little fear into some blowhard blogger touting some shady-looking gizmo by e-mailing him with, "Sure you're following those new FTC rules?"
I do wonder how Twitterers are going to manage. Putting a disclosure about their relationship with a product will be pretty hard to do with that 140-word limit.