In what seemed like a well intentioned move on Monday, the US Federal Trade Commission issued guidelines for endorsements, clarifying an existing law, but for the first time, mentioning bloggers.
I, for one, have always wondered why the same disclosures that appear (and have appeared) on websites for years somehow escaped bloggers and blogging (but never felt it necessary to put any kind of disclosure here).
The ruling has caused nothing less than a firestorm with some embracing the new 'clarification', and others outright hating it.
Personally, I have no problem if I'm helping someone with a website, writing (sometimes along with their lawyers) extensive disclosure pages. Factually. they usually address typos more than anything else.
On the other hand, this truly seems like an attempt to apply old rules to a new world .... that simply won't work.
First, here in the US, many of us write blogs almost assuming that our audience is in the US. An FTC ruling will most likely only effect US bloggers (and Tweeters?). That alone could result in a legal mess.
The World Wide Web is just that ..... and it's getting bigger. The small audience for this blog comes from numerous countries (and even more since I added Google Translate above and before that, the Wibiya bar below).
At times, I have turned on Google's Adsense here as more of an experiment than anything else.
Anyone who knows that landscape knows that I am not in full control of those ads .... Google is.
So if I were to disclose something here (not that there's much to disclose?!), and Google matched my writing with Adsense Ads, am I responsible for those advertisers now?
At the very least, it'll be interesting to see what ads appear below this post.
For me, the FTC's time could be much better spent going after virus-laden malware blogs and websites that still proliferate the web. They are still the biggest problem for average Internet users.
"By the way .... if you buy this FREE product, we are taking control of your computer ... because we need the bandwidth ... and haven't decided what to do with it yet"
Now there's a disclosure.
Links updated 10/6/2009 9:30 ET