The long arm of the US Federal Trade Commission is reaching out to bloggers and social network users to stamp out a modern day form of payola. New rulesapproved by the FTC this week bring the new media into the same fold as radio and television when it comes to people endorsing products.
Simply put (and the Commission takes many pages to explain this) if bloggers get an economic benefit from endorsing a product, they had better believe what they say, and let the audience know they are being paid to say it. In future they will be held responsible for their words just like proper celebrities spruiking about products on the mainstream media.
A second toughening of the FTC’s rules modifies guidelines to state that endorsements “must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of the endorser.” According to Richard Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s division of advertising practices, “If you say, ‘I love this product and I use it’ … it better be truthful.”
Celebrities (including a humble blogger getting a free product for giving a plug) can’t lie about loving a product, and if they say it has certain effects, they should at least attempt to ensure that’s true, Mr. Cleland said. Otherwise, in addition to slapping the company with fines or legal action, the FTC could now hold celebrities legally accountable for their endorsements.