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Ethical blogging – US bloggers

If you’re a blogger in the US, you should be aware of the FTC’s Revised Endorsement Guides which have been expanded to include social media.

The revised Guides – issued after public comment and consumer research – reflect three basic truth-in-advertising principles:

  • Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading;
  • If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances; and
  • If there’s a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.

Under the revised guidelines, the FTC places emphasis on making sure the audience understands the reviewer’s relationship to the company whose products are being reviewed.

Under US law, an act or practice is deceptive if it misleads “a significant minority” of consumers. So even if some readers are aware of the practice of bloggers being paid or rewarded by brands, many readers aren’t. That’s why disclosure is important.

The FTC explains: “For a review in a newspaper, on TV, or on a website with similar content, it’s usually clear to the audience that the reviewer didn’t buy the product being reviewed. It’s the reviewer’s job to write his or her opinion and no one thinks they bought the product – for example, a book or movie ticket – themselves. But on a personal blog, a social networking page, or in similar media, the reader may not expect the reviewer to have a relationship with the company whose products are mentioned. Disclosure of that relationship helps readers decide how much weight to give the review.”

The FTC advises that bloggers include a written disclosure within the body of sponsored blog posts. A single disclosure on the blog homepage is not deemed to be sufficient. The FTC isn’t mandating the specific wording of disclosures.

Similarly, tweets which are sponsored should include the hashtag #ad, #paid or #paidad.

For further information and details, please visit the FTC website.

Further reading:

24 April 2013 – Disclosure for bloggers and brands

11 March 2015 – Brands and Bloggers: Keep Your Sponsored Content Legal

12 March 2015 – Online Etiquette & Laws for Bloggers

01 April 2015 – Sorry Affiliate Bloggers, But Your About Page Disclosure Doesn’t Cut It

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