This is kind of ridiculous, isn't it? Via my dad:
The Federal Trade Commission is expected to release new guidelines this summer that "would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest."
This part is particularly alarming:
Any type of blog could be scrutinized, not just ones that specialize in reviews.
So parents keeping blogs to update family members on their child's first steps technically would fall under the FTC guidelines, though they likely would have little to worry about unless they accept payments or free products and write about them. But they would need to think twice if, for instance, they praise parenting books they've just read and include links to buy them at a retailer like Amazon.com Inc.
That's because the guidelines also would cover the broader and common practice of affiliate marketing, in which bloggers and other sites get a commission when someone clicks on a link that leads to a purchase at a retailer. In such cases, merchants also would be responsible for actions by their sales agents — including a network of bloggers.
Well, we're not going to take this lying down, are we?
"It would always be better for bloggers to self-police," said Robert Cox, president of Media Bloggers Association in New Rochelle, N.Y. "We have laws on the books. They apply to everybody, not just people who write blogs."
I'd say that the FTC might not be able to grasp the now vast concept of what, exactly, a blog is nowadays. This is a blog -- and one that provides the service of product, store and restaurant reviews, not to mention deals on or at said items, solely for the benefit of its readers -- but what about my Twitter account? My vita.mn contributions? My sex column even mentions helpful products and websites on occasion. I'm sure the MBA is already planning on doing it, but I'd also make the argument that virtually everyone blogs now. So all of those people that link to, say, a great pair of jeans that finally fit them perfectly will end up having to attach a disclaimer to their blogs somewhere? That's like requiring dudes who wear Ed Hardy tee shirts to walk around and tell every person at the club that they did not receive compensation for sporting the company's name and logo.
Locally, Punch Pizza is notorious for using Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and their own blog to reward customers by offering printable coupons and spreading the word. Once the new guidelines are in place, does Punch have to use a disclaimer, and everyone who retweets on Twitter or shares the offer with their blog readers, and then everyone who mentions that they went to Punch, and then me because I used this example? Seems silly and, above all, really unnecessary.
I've never allowed banner, sidebar or Google ads on this blog; it's got as much to do with integrity as it does with not wanting to bother my readers with a bunch of flashing crap or suggestions for products that I don't personally endorse. I also turn down freebies all the time-- just in the last 2 weeks, I've passed on tea from Tea Source and store credit from Buffalo Exchange. But that's not to say I don't take advantage of occasional freebies, either. Proprietors and managers of restaurants frequently knock a drink or three off my bill, but that's just good business when you're opening up a new place. When I'm impressed by a restaurant, I'll say great things about it, regardless of whether or not I paid for all my drinks or food. I mean, duh, that's the whole point here.
(Disclaimer: Nintendo just sent me a free DSi, but I only agreed to be one of their "brand enthusiasts" after it was made perfectly clear that I am under no obligation to write about their products here unless I really feel the need to. I kind of feel the need to tell you to try playing Rhythm Heaven, which both The Mexican and I find to be incredibly addicting.)