It’s good to know that the Federal Trade Commission has cleared so many important issues off their desk that they can now turn their attention to the integrity of bloggers and web reviewers.
Apparently the concern is that some who post about products and services might not be doing it from the goodness of their heart, but because they are being paid to do so. Comments about this hotel being great and that laptop being awesome might, in fact, be a promotional plug from a paid endorser. In other words, you might read something on the Internet that’s not true.
Like many of you I am flooded with email offers to become a paid shopper, or to try products then keep them, or become an “Internet Marketing Manager” (that last one is my favorite because you actually get a job title!). I treat these with the same courtesy and respect as I do offers for inheritances from foreign countries, hotties in my zip code and penis enlargement equipment…on the rare occasion they make it through the spam filter in the first place.
It’s pretty funny – I can’t see the FTC being able to enforce this on websites, let alone Internet chat groups and Facebook communities; there are millions of them to monitor. And what the hell is a “prominent Tweeter”? Is that a person of renown, famous by their name? Or is it that nerd who tweets you every five minutes to let you know he found a parking space or finally passed that Mexican meal that’s been giving him gas all day?
I guess if you believe everything you read, it might be a relief that the FTC has made this a priority. But most of us with functioning brains can spot a plant pretty easily. I’ve been on band websites where some label lackey came in to pimp a new band only to get hounded off the list within an hour. If you read Amazon reviews you’ll be able to spot the phonies – sometimes including the artists themselves – a mile away. And I frequent sites that rate services, accommodations and employers, and even there it’s easy to differentiate most of the wheat from the chaff.
Why? Genuine people write with passion. Phonies can’t.
Don’t get me wrong – I like the fact that there is a Federal Trade Commission, and their mission statement is a valid and necessary one. I’m just saying they might want to spend more time looking at sweatshops and Wal-Mart than chasing Twitter interns (Twints?). But for those who do need the advice, let me share this nugget of wisdom with you, words my parents taught me: “Don’t believe everything you read”. (There, isn’t that better? I just saved the government millions of dollars and cleared their agenda for the next crisis.)
The rules go into effect December 1, 2009. But to be proactive – and avoid any possibility of a misdirected eleven thousand dollar fine – let me state it for the record. “No film company, television channel, record company, musician, artist or performer is paying me anything”. Hell, I don’t even accept advertising. I do receive promotional copies of CDs, DVDs and books for review, just like many reviewers do, but never with strings attached. I always have – and will continue to – recuse myself from reviewing any project or product I’m involved with. A link to this statement is now in the Blogroll column.
Wow…I feel cleansed and proud. Wonder if the FTC knows how that feels?