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Advertisers Oppose Proposed Rules for Bloggers

Don't apply penalties to bloggers for not revealing endorsement deals unless you're going to do the same to the traditional media, trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau wrote in a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz Thursday.

IAB, whose members sell 96 percent of all U.S. ads, asked Leibowitz to scrap new guidelines that would require bloggers and celebrities to reveal any financial connections to companies whose products they endorse. The guidelines, revealed earlier this month, stirred a storm of controversy on the Web. Critics said the rules were confusing and that it appeared the agency would penalize violators up to $11,000 for each time the guidelines were ignored. The FTC said it was very unlikely bloggers would be fined that amount, saying the agency only had the authority to warn bloggers to disclose their ties or stop their endorsements.

Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the IAB, called the FTC’s distinction between offline media and online media, “constitutionally dubious.”

The guidelines would "muzzle online media, while exempting offline media from equivalent scrutiny or penalty," he wrote.

“I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide the invaluable content and services that have so transformed people’s lives,” he said.

Rothenberg criticized the federal guidelines for requiring bloggers to disclose whether they have been given the products they are reviewing free of charge, in addition to revealing whether they receive any financial compensation for their endorsements.

By Cecilia Kang  |  October 16, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
 | Tags: bloggers, ftc, internet advertising, randall rothenberg  
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