There is a big buzz in the blogosphere about a regulation that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is planning to approve late this summer. If that goes through, they will basically start going after bloggers “for any false claims or failure to disclose any conflict of interest.”
In other words, if you write a testimonial for a product you have never used, you might get busted. This part is the one that makes sense. The controversial one is the “failure to disclose any conflict of interest” one. This could involve bloggers who earned a freebie from a company and ended up writing about it (without disclosing the freebie), for example. Furthermore, it could also mean that you can’t use any affiliate links inside your blog or website without disclosing that you stand to earn money if someone clicks on them.
I believe that trying to enforce strict guidelines and clean the web from spammers and scammers is a good thing. However, I am not sure if this proposed approach is the right one. It kind reminds me of the RIAA, and how they were trying to stop illegal music downloads by suing the heck out of a women who had shared a couple of songs via P2P….
Aaron Wall wrote a really good post about this topic, titled FTC Going After Bloggers = Epic Fail. Here is a quote from it:
What is absurd (to me at least) is how inefficient this process is. What needs to happen is better enforcement on ad networks, search engines, and merchants. Follow the money downstream rather than hunting for nickels upstream.
The people who are making fake sites are doing so because they are paid to. And amoral ad networks that syndicate ads based on *maximizing yield efficiency* (like Google AdWords) are designed to syndicate fraud because it is easy for advertisers to pay a lot for ads when their profit margins are nearly 100% because they scam people.
I completely agree with him. Going after individual bloggers will not solve the problem. It will just make the money shift hands, but the system will remain intact. Either way it is important to keep an eye on the development of this issue, because it might affect all of us.
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