The Federal Trade Commission Injects Itself into the Blogosphere

People have been blogging for close to a decade, but never before have we seen something that attracted so many people so quickly before than the amount of people who have flocked to blogging and who have created internet-based spaces for themselves. People are very resourceful and it was only a matter of time before people realized they could make a nominal, or in some rare cases, could earn their sole household income from their blogs. In fact, the biggest blogging niche where bloggers are making the most money is by running blogs on how to make money blogging. And whenever people are making an income from doing what they love, it’s only a matter of time before the government turns its nose up at it and finds a way to discipline the people who have the nerve to not work a society-approved 9-5.

If you haven’t yet seen the Federal Trade Commission’s new 81-page document (or if you don’t have access to someone with the eccentric skill set needed to decipher the language) it basically means that starting December 1, 2009 if you are compensated in any way for a blog post you write (or info you share on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any other new media outlet,) you must disclose that you have been compensated by the company that provided you either with cash, a free product, or any other type of compensation you received from the company.

If you bought the product or service you are reviewing or sharing your opinion on with your own money, then you are not required to disclose any information whatsoever. If you received a product for free from a company, you are now mandated to write a little blurb on the bottom of your blog post that goes something like ‘I received this product for free from X company and all information in this blog post regarding said product is is the sole opinion of myself and do not represent the thoughts of X company.’ Or you could be a little less-professional, which is what most bloggers will be doing come December 1, and just add a short and sweet ‘I received this product for free from X company.’ The only hole in this legislation is if you did buy a product you decided to review on your blog with your own money and you fall under siege of the FTC, how do you prove that you bought any products you reviewed on your website? How many of you actually keep the receipts of gifts you buy for your children and loved ones or apparel that you absolutely love after wearing and want to share a brand with your readers? No, in most cases you don’t and how else would you prove that you did buy a product that appeared on your site that could cost you up to $11,000 per post if you don’t disclose any business relationship.

However, semantics really does play a part in this conversation and not just because I am a blogger who is really not very happy with the new FTC mandates. For instance, Woman Tribune currently has a site-wide disclosure in place that distinctly states that I receive forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. Granted, it also states that you, my readers, do not know which posts are sponsored by any company in most cases, but the policy of Woman Tribune that I am adamant about because it is my own, personal and ethical belief, is that whether or not a post is sponsored by a company, service, website, and so on, my blog posts are always honest and if I don’t like a product or service that I was asked if I would try, or I find anything misleading about a sponsor, I won’t think twice about reporting my findings; note the ‘ethical blogger’ badge in the footer of Woman Tribune. As far as I’ve seen, most bloggers who accept sponsorship of any kind feel the same, exact way.

I think the media, especially when targeting “mommy bloggers” who blog for profit or are often sponsored by companies or services, have blown blogging sponsorship way out of proportion and have basically represented women bloggers, who make up most bloggers who review products and are sponsored in any way by any company as people who sell their souls for freebies, which is completely not the case and is probably why the FTC felt the pressure to amend their legislation and place mandates on bloggers.

The FTC’s new mandates on bloggers are only subject to US bloggers, so those who live outside of the US who don’t have strict mandates over media or any other niche that free-thinkers and free-speakers thrive in, do not have anything to worry about. If you’re a blogger whose web host is located outside of the US I don’t believe should be subject to the new mandate, although I’m not a lawyer or a member of the FTC, so I could be mistakes and it’s always wise to double check. The bottom line is that bloggers who are endorsed by any company, service, etc. and whodo not disclose the relationship they have with the company are subject to fines equaling up to $11,000 per post.

Are you a blogger who feels under siege by the FTC? What are your thoughts on the new blogger mandates?

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