FTC unveils stricter guidelines for bloggers

By Phil Vogel
Internet Editor

The Federal Trade Commission has set down new guidelines for bloggers and new media professionals. The Assistant Director of Advertising Practices for the FTC, Richard Cleland, joined the Federal Drive to talk about why the FTC produced the guidelines.

He says the reason for these new guidelines is that consumers have a right to know if the writer or blogger has a bias that is not immediately obvious. The FTC would like new media professionals to be honest in their disclosures, whether they are being paid or receiving free products in exchange for an endorsement.

Mr. Cleland felt the commission is interpreting the FTC act by regulating new media. Similar guidelines are already in place for TV and radio advertisements and he says it is a “logical extension” for the FTC to move to working with the next form of media and marketing.

The action by the FTC was not a response to a public outcry or problem, but instead the commission trying to be proactive in helping to protect consumers. Cleland says, it is important to note that these are guidelines and there is no penalty for noncompliance. The focus is on consumer education and voluntary compliance. If there is a clear public interest to go forward with punishments then they will move in that direction.

Extensive education is going to follow the release of the guidelines. Helpful guides and other educational tools are eventually going to be available at the FTC website. In the interim they are trying to find out what people’s concerns are and trying to assess the needs of the bloggers and social media groups.

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