report by the Associated Press, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering to monitor blogs for undisclosed sponsored blog posts. According to the FTC, bloggers who don't disclose that they received freebies once these new rules go into effect could become the target on an FTC investigation. These new guidelines (PDF), possibly with modifications, will most likely go into effect later this summer, and would mark the first time that the FTC tries to patrol the blogosphere.According to a
As Andy Beal rightly points out, "the only bloggers that need to be wary of any new FTC guidelines are the ones that have brought this on us all." The FTC isn't likely to care about the blogger who used a coupon to get the free hamburger he/she blogged about. But there is a whole subculture of bloggers who make a living of undisclosed freebies and "sponsored conversations." According to CNet's Caroline McCarthy, however, these rules could even extend to undisclosed affiliate links. Under the new guidelines, bloggers would have to disclose if they are being compensated and, if they don't, the FTC could order them to pay restitution to their readers.
As much as those bloggers who receive these gifts would like to claim this isn't the case, freebies like free laptops, trips, or gift cards are likely to influence a writer's opinion of a product. We just heard from a food blogger last week who told us that she regularly receives expensive spices, books, and mail-order steaks from companies that won't to be covered on her blog.
Do We Want the FTC to Regulate the Blogosphere?
At the same time, though, we do feel queasy about the FTC starting to extend its reach to the blogosphere. While we dislike the idea of not disclosing these gifts, we're not sure having the government intervene here is such a great idea, either. We also can't help to wonder how the FTC is going to monitor the thousands of small-time bloggers who regularly receive freebies. The FTC also won't be able to do much about the large number of these blogs that are based outside of the United States.