We are all used to having the Internet as a marketing free for all. You don’t know if what you are reading about any local restaurant is simply a Blogger’s opinion or if they were offered a free meal to say something enticing about the restaurant. You don’t know if someones Twitter update about a new video game that they are in love with is because they were given a free trial of the game. The FTC is out to change that.
The Federal Trade Commission is on a mission to target those “pay per post” sites and updaters. The fee for violating these new rules and not disclosing if you are being compensated can be up to $11,000.
There are many problems with the new rules set to go into force in December. One is that they only pertain to online marketing, not any other medium. This is not fair and it is not Constitutional. Also, it does infringe of the freedom of speech that we all so greatly appreciate in our country. After all, if I want to brag about a pair of shoes that I have and enjoy why should anyone care if I got the shoes for free or if the maker of the shoe wants to reimburse me for the praise. Naturally as consumers we all have a responsibility to be discerning and to decide for ourselves what is good and what isn’t. Most of us that spend any time at all online know that there are paid opinion posts everywhere and we can usually identify them for what they are. Whether someone is being paid to endorse a product or they are part of an affiliate program, it is pretty clear just by looking at the site and the tone of any post.
Another main problem with this ruling is that it is almost impossible to enforce. After all, who is going to pay to employ someone to police every Twitter post, Facebook post, blog post and so on. And then even if you suspect that someone received a free copy of a movie so that they would write a post on it how are you going to track it? These rules are unreasonable on many levels. Perhaps the only way for anyone to get the FTC to understand that this is a waste of time, energy and resources is to write them directly. Maybe if they receive enough letters trying to talk sense they will finally see the light.