Wake Up! - The FTC is screwing with bloggers

If you are a blogger in the US your life is about to change big-time.

You have just entered the Twilight Zone...

New FTC guidelines (read full version) described in the official press release state:

1 - "the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service."

and

2 - the revised Guides reflect Commission case law and clearly state that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement - or for failure to disclose material connections between the advertiser and endorsers. The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media."

My reading of this is very disturbing.

Here is a possible scenario:

  1. You - a "social media" "celebrity" "blogger" (this is anyone who has more than a few followers on Twitter or some number of subscribers to their blog RSS feed) reviews a book, product, or service - making it an "endorsement"
  2. You got a copy of the book to review, or got a free trial of the product, or a free trial of the service
  3. You did not mention the freebie in your blog post
  4. If someone does not like your blog posting you can be sued

To try to regulate bloggers as if they were professional journalists or compensated endorsements is asinine (incidentally - these guidelines do not apply to professional journalists!) The FTC is trying a land-grab into Internet regulation so they can extend their bureaucratic tentacles and justify their continued existence and funding. All of this is being done under the slogan of their official tagline "Protecting America's Consumers". This of course begs the questions - "from whom?"

This is a screwy world we live in, but the whole premise of blogging on the Internet is predicated on the notion that anyone can have frank and open discussions about any topic of their choosing. Most bloggers do not get paid and do not make any money directly or indirectly from their blogging efforts. They try to build their reputation and disseminate information that their followers may find useful. They never claim to be "objective" and often hold very strong, peculiar, and very personal opinions.

It has always been "buyer beware" on the Internet. I don't think anyone needs to be reminded that we should carefully consider the source and reputation of any information that we encounter online. We certainly don't need a chilling effect on the whole online conversation from a huge government agency.

It is ironic that this is happening under the direction of a man who was elected with the strong support of the Internet community and specifically active social media leaders. Unfortunately typical liberal-leaning tendencies are also to regulate people's lives via the government in order to protect them against unscrupulous big-business practices.

Don't get me wrong - frankly I don't care if the assault on individual liberties comes from the left or right (the four FTC commissioners who voted unanimously for the new guideline were all appointed by Bush). But I do care when big brother injects themselves into normal Internet discourse this heavy-handedly.

Fight this unconstitutional over-reach - these are simply regulations from unelected bureaucrats within the executive branch.

Let's make our voices heard and protect the First Amendment and our ability to have unfettered discourse without fear of lawsuits online.

BTW - no one paid me to "endorse" this position on the new FTC regulations - I guess that my butt is now legally covered (at least for this blog post).