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FTC - Blogger Disclaimer - WIll this affect our reviews on HubPages?

  1. girly_girl09 profile image78
    girly_girl09posted 8 years ago

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm

    From what I understand, it affects bloggers that are directly paid to endorse or review a product. Here on HP, we don't get paid to write reviews (well, some of you might), however most of us do benefit if someone purchases a product that we reviewed from Amazon or Ebay via affiliate programs. So, in a way, we do get compensated for our reviews.

    I can't find the FTC's actual new 'guide' to read, so I'd be interested to hear if any hubbers (or even the HP staff) have some further information on this.

    Thanks!

    1. darkside profile image83
      darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I think the FTC ruling has more to do with ethics (while not specifically mentioned on the FTC announcement, other commentators have used the word). So reviewing a product with a link for someone to buy isn't the same as being given that product to review or being paid by the company for reviewing the product.

      Either way it's still a tax issue, but the compensation in the latter example is either prior, immediate or guaranteed.

      I imagine the ruling will also apply to hubbers (though I imagine only US hubbers) because they say 'bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers'. They probably would have been better off saying 'online publisher' but blogger will be whatever they want it to mean to be, be it reviewer, hubber, lensmaster.

      All a person has to do is say "I was given this product to review by XYZ company". But I'm not sure how well it'll go down if a person has to say "I was paid by XYZ company to review their product".

      The question is though, will people who HAVEN'T been given the product, money or other gift have to state that? eg: "In reviewing this book I was not sponsored, endorsed, compensated or otherwise bought off by Amazon, the author, the publisher or anyone else with a vested interest in this product"

    2. LiamBean profile image87
      LiamBeanposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Here you go;

      http://ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm

      Also the site says: "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. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service."

      Cash-in-kind means a direct payment from a manufacturer or vendor to review a product. The implication is that this transaction happens BEFORE the review is written.

      That's my take on it anyway. I could be wrong.

      I'm not sure that actually applies to hubpages as we do not get to decide what ads Google chooses...and they are ads. If we use Amazon or eBay we are only paid when someone buys. And that's where it gets sticky to me.

      Hopefully by December 1 the FTC will have clearer rules.

    3. darkside profile image83
      darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this
      1. LiamBean profile image87
        LiamBeanposted 8 years agoin reply to this

        I wrote an entry on it yesterday. But I won't say what the link is. big_smile

        1. darkside profile image83
          darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

          Starting a thread for self-promotion is wrong, but contributing to the discussion in subsequent posts with an on-topic link is allowed. So please, post the link so I may read smile

          1. LiamBean profile image87
            LiamBeanposted 8 years agoin reply to this

            Here ya go;

            http://hubpages.com/hub/Federal-Trade-C … e-Blogging

            I consider myself a bright fellow, but I don't read minds. If one can assume a government agency has a mind that is.

  2. Fiction Teller profile image62
    Fiction Tellerposted 8 years ago

    Yes, from what I can tell, any kind of relationship that involves monetary gain from an endorsement (such as a review) is included.

    The document explaining the changes to the guidelines is here:
    http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005end … notice.pdf

  3. Fiction Teller profile image62
    Fiction Tellerposted 8 years ago

    I've an ominous feeling it also includes reviews of products, or recommendations for products, for which we receive affiliate commissions.  And from the wording I've read, there's even the potential to include situations where we review (or even give a casual opinion on) a product that is also being advertised on the page through an ad network (like AdSense) from which we get monetary gain. It's hard to tell at this point where the line is drawn and what is excluded or included. 

    Anybody have any citations?  I'll be very interested to see the official document that (hopefully) specifies when it applies and when it doesn't.

    1. chazlcom profile image57
      chazlcomposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I went through the entire document, and the word "affiliate" is not mentioned.  Earlier news reports which interviewed FTC bureaucrats said that affiliate links would be included.

      I would recommend two things:

      1. assume the worst, and create a blanket disclaimer

      2. post that disclaimer all over the web, whether you need it or not.

      My guess is that surfers will see so many disclaimers that no one will pay attention to them.

  4. girly_girl09 profile image78
    girly_girl09posted 8 years ago

    Hi guys, thanks for your awesome responses!!!

    Fiction Teller: I, too, would love to see some actual citations from these new guidelines.

    Either way, I am under the same assumption as Darkside:

  5. sunforged profile image75
    sunforgedposted 8 years ago

    ....this is what stands out to me

    The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.

    its nice in theory but without enforcement, and of course Nobody has the power to police the net at that level..its just some words on a page

    1. mandybeau1 profile image61
      mandybeau1posted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Precisely my thoughts.

      1. girly_girl09 profile image78
        girly_girl09posted 8 years agoin reply to this

        Yes, but I am wondering if Google Adsense may incorporate these new FTC guidelines into their TOS for US publishers. That wouldn't shock me.

        1. darkside profile image83
          darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

          Adsense ads are marked as being advertisements. And if a website owner/publisher does label them they can only use the words Advertisers, Advertising or Sponsors.

          1. girly_girl09 profile image78
            girly_girl09posted 8 years agoin reply to this

            I should clarify. smile I meant that Google could perhaps change their Adsense TOS to ban sites that write reviews without a disclaimer that adheres to the new set of FTC guidelines. Just like they do for other types of sites (gambling, prescription drugs, etc.)

            1. darkside profile image83
              darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

              Ahhhh, I see what you mean.

              I guess they'll have their lawyers look over all the pros and cons. It could be a case of not wanting to be held liable, therefore they don't include it. Say for instance HubPages, if they were to try and police it, they could be held accountable for all the published content of their members. Which to some degree they are (when it relates to Adsense) but it depends on how big a target they want to be.

    2. darkside profile image83
      darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      That's stating that the Guide is an interpretation of the law.

      The law takes effect on December 1st:


      And there will be fines:


      How will they police it? I imagine rival websites will be dobbing in their competitors for not complying with the rules.

      1. sunforged profile image75
        sunforgedposted 8 years agoin reply to this

        From the included sources:

        The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. The guides are not binding law, but rather interpretations of law that hope to help advertisers comply with regulations. Violating the rules, which take effect Dec. 1, could result in various sanctions including a lawsuit.

        Perhaps if your the lead blogger in the weight loss industry this scrutiny could fall on you (probably deservingly!) particularly when your competititors are foaming at the mouth to hurt you in whatever way possible.

        Its still a pipe dream, the FTC does point also from included sources taht most likely they would go after advertisers not the bloggers, this could lead to some more fineprint in our advertiser contracts

        Really, good luck figuring out who most top bloggers in high paying industries really are FTC enforcers ! But going after the advertisers who are showcased is rather easily done.

        I really have my doubts on the success and implementation of this policy...they Just dont have the computing power to be anything but another number to call when you try and take down your comp...this will get old, quick, companies who would be impacted will just become international in name and have no worries about us law

        did you see that the pirate party won seats in Swedish government!


        Once the first case is succesfully tried, a reason and formula is created for the fine level etc.. etc, then maybe be interested

        1. mandybeau1 profile image61
          mandybeau1posted 8 years agoin reply to this

            Personally like to hear from a Lawyer, everything is all O.K. in theory, but they are having trouble policing things such as Copyright Breach on the net. Also some people are in such remote places, that once they too are affected as are Americans, it would be Catastrophic trying to enforce. I just think people would ignore the Fines.
          Anything works in theory practice is a very different "Kettle of Fish"
          yeah saw the Pirate Party Trust Sweden. So liberal.

    3. omniscribe profile image55
      omniscribeposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I hope you're right. To think an $11,000 fine would put blogging down with file-sharing. In file-sharing cases, laws were designed to relieve the burden of proof from the prosecution.

    4. chazlcom profile image57
      chazlcomposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      You mess with the FTC at your own peril.

      What you don't want to be is their test case.  Comply even if you don't have to.

      I agree that this will be impossible to enforce across the net, but don't do anything stupid and in their face to make yourself a target.

  6. Mezo profile image70
    Mezoposted 8 years ago

    Interesting stuff...I hope somebody from HP staff would explain what we have to do (or don't!)

  7. Uninvited Writer profile image82
    Uninvited Writerposted 8 years ago

    It is not going to effect HubPages as far as I can tell. And especially those of us who are not American.

  8. Ellen_C profile image76
    Ellen_Cposted 8 years ago

    I have known of instances for a company to send a blogger a sample of a product or gift card for having written something about their site and generating traffic for them after the blog has already been written. These gifts were not an incentive to write, but subsequent result of their page's successes. These types of things are becoming more common.

  9. getting there profile image81
    getting thereposted 8 years ago

    I spoke with the FTC this morning to clarify how this might affect bloggers, hubbers, etc. who use 3rd party or affiliate advertising such as adsense, ebay Network Partners, Amazon, etc. I wrote a summary of my discussion here: http://hubpages.com/hub/New-FTC-Guideli … l-Bloggers

    I gathered from my discussion that this can affect someone who writes about a product and then uses services such as amazon or ebay that are designed to place ads for those specific products on your page.

    I will be very interested in how this all plays out. I'm really curious about how they are going to enforce it. My guess is they probably won't enforce it, unless it is brought to their attention by a complaint or an additional infraction. I just know that the threat of $11,000 per instance is enough to make me want to stay well on the safe side.

  10. getting there profile image81
    getting thereposted 8 years ago

    One more thought:
    I think a likely scenario will be that google, ebay, amazon, etc will start placing the disclosures themselves along with the ads, rather than relying on the blogger to do it.
    What do you think?

    1. darkside profile image83
      darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Adsense ads say "Ads by Google". By stating it is an ad it is a disclosure.

      1. getting there profile image81
        getting thereposted 8 years agoin reply to this

        Darkside, stating that it is an ad, is not a disclosure that it is sponsored. You may have noticed now that alot of adsense ads are displaying a shaded bar with text inside that reads, "Sponsored Links". That may be considered a disclosure, however I think even more clearly would be a statement like, "The content on this page is sponsored in part by these ads".

        You could always just add your own disclaimer such as, "Thank you to all of our sponsors, whose advertisements have enabled us to bring you this wonderful information".

        1. Whitney05 profile image82
          Whitney05posted 8 years agoin reply to this

          As far as I remember, they've always said "Ads by Google". Sometimes in shaded bars and sometimes not, but like I said, as far as I can remember Google ads have always said  "Ads by Google," except the banner ads that sponsor one advertiser.

          1. getting there profile image81
            getting thereposted 8 years agoin reply to this

            Excuse me Whitney, My mistake. Those were not google ads but MSN adds that say, "Sponsored Link".

        2. LiamBean profile image87
          LiamBeanposted 8 years agoin reply to this

          I get from the announcement that the FTC is talking about a direct sponsor relationship. e.g. the vendor pays the blogger directly to write a good review. They even gave an example of what is not a violation. A blogger gets a free product that the vendor does not know about and writes a blog about the product. If the vendor has no direct knowledge and no direct relationship with the blogger then it's not a violation.

          Google ads are pretty much beyond our control. We place keywords and Google determines the content. This is hardly a "pay for play" scenario.

          1. getting there profile image81
            getting thereposted 8 years agoin reply to this

            LiamBean,
            You are correct that the FTC is more concerned about a direct relationship, and I think in most cases you are correct about google ads not being an issue. When I spoke with the FTC however they explained a scenario in which a relationship between a blogger and a seller could be considered "direct" with the use of google or other ads that place ads based on keywords. The short circuit works like this:

            Seller of Widget places ads with Advertiser and instructs Advertiser to run those ads when certain keywords are displayed and agrees to pay a fee when people click on those ads. Advertiser then runs the ads on pages exhibiting those keywords and shares the revenue generated by those ads with the Blogger who created the page. Blogger realizes that it can be lucrative writing content with keywords that targets seller's ads and is of interest to Sellers customers and creates a desire within them to click on the ad to visit the Seller's site and/or make a purchase.

            I see this being most directly an issue with e-bay and amazon type ads, but also with google, MSN, Yahoo, etc.

            You can learn more about my conversation with the FTC, and the new guidelines by visiting my hub on the topic.

            1. darkside profile image83
              darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

              From what I read on your hub, your conversation with 'the FTC' was with a person who didn't know much about the ruling anyway.

              Direct relationship or not, this ruling is not about advertisers. It's about endorsements. When people are paid to endorse a product but keep that fact hidden.

              1. Mark Knowles profile image60
                Mark Knowlesposted 8 years agoin reply to this

                This is actually quite entertaining - Why?

                Because I can see this applying to the Wall Street Journal every time they announce a "recovery in housing prices." which really means "please go borrow some money so our advertisers will come back."  lol

        3. darkside profile image83
          darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

          You're complicating it.

          The FTC's stance is that an advertisement, pretending to be an unbiased opinion/review, is misleading and unethical.

          If you got cash or free product to endorse a product then that is the problem. An ad that looks like an ad and is labeled as being an ad is an ad. It's not pretending to be a personal recommendation.

          This ruling shouldn't be new, it's been in effect for newspapers for years (at least here in Australia and in the UK). I imagine that the FTC is updating the existing law to incorporate bloggers and others who previously felt exempt from the rules.

  11. darkside profile image83
    darksideposted 8 years ago

    Thus, a consumer who purchases a product with his or her own money and praises it on a personal blog or on an electronic message board will not be deemed to be providing an endorsement. In contrast, postings by a blogger who is paid to speak about an advertiser’s product will be covered by the Guides, regardless of whether the blogger is paid directly by the marketer itself or by a third party on behalf of the marketer.

    From Page 9 of the "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising"

  12. steffer profile image61
    stefferposted 8 years ago

    Well, i have read the complete guidelines and i still don't get it.

    my 2 cents on it, is that ads like google ads are already disclaimed by google and so do not fall under these rules.

    But...

    I am an affiliate marketer and i use my blogs to market in various niches. So i guess, i need to state that i am affiliated with product x and i make money per sale generated

    Am i correct?

    And if so, what's the point of that, i am sure my sales will drop faster than a meteorite.

    ps: some say it is only for americans, but the FTC says ALL bloggers, so what is it????

    1. darkside profile image83
      darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      This is where it can appear a little hazy, but are you getting paid (in cash or in kind) to give a review? You might be making money from a sale, but it's not a done deal.

      You can review a book at Amazon and have an affiliate link and it shouldn't be a problem. If on the other hand you were being paid by the publisher to give a review on Amazon.com then that would be a problem.

      If there has to be disclosure for cases like that though I'm yet to see exactly how a person is to make such a disclaimer. Whether it's on a page on the site or in the footer. Or will it have to be as obvious as right next to the link? That I doubt, but I'm sure people will find out by December 1st.


      American organisations often forget that there is a world outside of the US. The FTC's influence is contained within the United States. Though things can get a little blurred if the site is hosted on American soil. But that would mean a whole lot more work for not a lot of reward.

      From what I understand, if a person is in breach, they'll get a cease and desist order to start.

  13. steffer profile image61
    stefferposted 8 years ago

    well, i use blogger.com and wordpress, both hosted in the U.S

    so that's also why i am a bit confused.
    i live in belgium, so in theory i am not an american, but am an american blogger trough the blogger hosting.

    1. darkside profile image83
      darksideposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I think in theory you'd know whether you're an American or not wink

      Are you getting paid (in cash or in free product) to write those reviews regardless whether or not you make a sale?

  14. steffer profile image61
    stefferposted 8 years ago

    no i am not

    if i don't make a sale, i get nothing
    so in that case i believe i don't fall under this category

 
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