The FTC is planning to start regulating blogs. If you make money from your blog or Twitter micro-blog then you will be affected. Since the administration (America) loves to pass huge bills containing over a thousand pages written in legalese and submitted at 3AM and requiring a vote within 5 hours (I swear Obama said we would have at least 5 days…), we have no idea what we are getting. There will be possibly hundreds of pages tacked on just before the vote is called that no one has read, which is common practice now.
If these laws get passed, likely, they could go into effect by the end of summer 2009. So, is it little me they are after? No… as best I can tell. Big businesses have seen the benefit of using blogs. They are the target. But as incompetent as government is there is no telling what we will get. So, paying attention to what they are doing is important.
The FTC will be looking at reviews on your blog. If they THINK you were paid for the review, you will likely get a letter from the US Department of Justice unless you have conformed to their ‘guidelines’. A violation would mean you could be forced to pay restitution to customers of the service or product you reviewed.
The FTC is already planning to protect you from search engines and Twitter feeds. Now they want to control whether you post about that bike you just bought, the new software feature, or that Second Life region or RPG you think is so cool. What comes next?
What are the ‘guidelines’ one must conform to?
One must provide full disclosure. Not too bad. ‘Got paid to say this…’ is disclosure.
One must be an expert. Huh? Well… this means the person writing an endorsement must have proven experience and knowledge regarding the product or service. Otherwise, a blogger may be risking a wide range of problems with the FTC. How do I prove that?
One must substantiate any claims made. So if you brag about the new diet pill you are on you better have before and after pictures and say it is not typical. Oh, that viewer is faster than another… you better have your benchmark numbers.
There are a bunch of little mistakes that can land one in trouble. For instance you can’t say something is the best unless you can prove it. You also cannot say some things are ‘safe’ by definition. It does not matter how safe and harmless a pesticide is to humans and pets by FTC definition it is not and you better not say it is.
The FTC Document outlining these changes is 86 pages long. If that does not scare you… watch Glenn Beck for a week and you will be freaking out as you see what else is going on. This is starting to look like a pattern with this administration. Because once you realize the FTC is not going to be able to fairly enforce these new ‘guidelines’ you will understand they will be Cherry-Picking their enforcement. The idea of freedom of speech in America is being snuffed out. Little people, middle America, will be used as examples because they are easy and cheap to prosecute.
This will change the way you blog. Healthcare and Cap and Trade are more important. But we have to face all of these attacks on freedom. Read up and call your Congressional Representatives.