FTC: Bloggers, Research Studies Must Cite Ties To Advertisers
Bloggers, fess up. If you're receiving money from companies and endorsing their products, say so or face a potential penalty of $11,000 from the Federal Trade Commission.
The policy for bloggers was part of new guidelines on how advertisers can use endorsements by research firms, bloggers and celebrities, the FTC announced Monday. Until now, FTC rules had not specifically addressed the role of bloggers.
"Given that social media has become such a significant player in the advertising area, we thought it was necessary to address social media as well," said Richard Cleland, assistant director for the division of advertising practices at the FTC.
Consumer interest groups have complained that the links between some bloggers and corporations were fuzzy at best. They say consumers often have no way to telling what sort of payments have been made to bloggers writing on parenting, fitness, dieting, and financial service sites.
"The revised guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement," the FTC said in a release. "Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service."
A change in the guidelines may also affect lobbyists in Washington: companies will now have to dislcose their financial ties to studies by research institutes that they fund and cite to promote their positions.
The agency, charged with protecting consumer interests, has not updated its policy on endorsements in nearly three decades. The guidelines are meant to be interpretations of the Federal Trade Commission Act and will be enforced on a case-by-case basis. Punishments for violations will range from a warning letter to a fine of up to $11,000 per act, the agency said.
October 5, 2009; 1:38 PM ET
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