Bloggers Could Be Sued

April 7, 2009

Rants

This is very interesting news. Bloggers could be sued for making “false claims” if they make a statement that is inaccurate or false– if a new U.S. regulation passes. From the Financial Times:

Advertisers in the US are bracing themselves for regulatory changes that they fear will curtail their efforts to tap into the fast-growing online social media phenomenon.

Revised guidelines on endorsements and testimonials by the Federal Trade Commission, now under review and expected to be adopted, would hold companies liable for untruthful statements made by bloggers and users of social networking sites who receive samples of their products.

The guidelines would also hold bloggers liable for the statements they make about products.

If a blogger received a free sample of skin lotion and then incorrectly claimed the product cured eczema, the FTC could sue the company for making false or unsubstantiated statements. The blogger could be sued for making false representations.

…The FTC is revising the guidelines for the first time since 1980, in response to the new forms of advertising spawned by the internet.

“The guides needed to be updated to address not only the changes in technology, but also the consequences of new marketing practices,” said Richard Cleland, assistant director for the FTC’s division of advertising practices. “Word-of-mouth marketing is not exempt from the laws of truthful advertising.”

The main target of the new guidelines appears to be the widespread practice of viral marketing in which companies recruit non- employees to talk up products in exchange for samples or promotions.

Companies regularly offer free samples and concert tickets to bloggers and journalists, in the hope of generating press. However, determining which bloggers are acting as an agent of a company may prove difficult.

While I am 100% against false claims, I don’t see how a blogger or other average citizen can completely investigate a particular claim before forming an opinion. I think that SOME responsibility has to rest on the consumer, ya know– BUYER BEWARE and all that thing. I mean, how stupid does a consumer have to be?! If a blogger claims that some snake oil appetite suppressants will make you lose 100 pounds in an hour…. hello?! Dumb! Do we really need a lawsuit to settle that? And how about all those “make money” schemes, where they guarantee you will make $200,000 the first month? Can they be sued, too? How about the GOVERNMENT– the U.S. government that keeps saying that all this bailout money will cure our recession? That’s false advertising if ever I heard it. Where’s the FTC with that?

Blogs are OPINION forums. An advertiser may ask us to review a product and give our opinion, which we do. I am one of many bloggers who has a disclaimer policy, stating that this blog expresses my OPINION based on what I know to be true. To think that I could be sued is a little much. Doesn’t the FTC have more to do than sit around and harangue us small fish?

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9 Responses to “Bloggers Could Be Sued”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    I just saw this also and I think this is crazy! They are giving bloggers way to much credit I mean if someone listens and does everything they read online then all i got to say is WOW lol

  2. Lisa Says:

    So, what about TV stations that advertise products. Can they be sued since they receive money?

    BTW, bloggers being sued is not a new thing: http://www.queenofpith.com/2008/07/silent-fear.html

    • Rebecca Says:

      The goal, I believe, is to squelch as much of the independent voices as possible. That’s why TV is not targeted, but small-time bloggers are.

      As far as bloggers being sued for blogging– yes, that has happened and will happen. I’m not saying it’s preferable, but in this day and age it’s certainly expected. The main jist of this story today is the FTC regulation that would enable the government to sue individuals. This would make it a policy, a policy established and regulated by bureaucrats.

  3. Carl Says:

    Oh, lord. This is just what we need. Eventually, we’ll get sued for being funny because we make stuff up.

  4. Karen Says:

    This is crazy. We voice our opinions. People have to decide for themselves about products. I hope our disclosure policies cover us.

  5. Marc Chamot Says:

    Hi Frugal, I just posted a link of your story on what i think on top…I think it’s fascinating story. We must fight it, or people won’t make money blogging…I think it’s the major blog networks that want to monopolize net advertising….

  6. Steven Wilson Says:

    Just one more try at big brother wanting the stop the voices that report the truth unlike the government controlled media lies.

  7. akaGaGa Says:

    Oh, please.

    And you’re right, of course. They want to squash the independent voices, which are the hardest to control behind the scenes. People can always sue other people for false claims. It doesn’t need the government doing the job for them.

    And I’ll guarantee that that there will be an exception that those speaking for the government don’t fall under this requirement.

    Aarghhh.

  8. megscole64 Says:

    That is INSANE. If I endorse a product, whether I got it for free or just like the product, it’s none of the government’s business. Word of mouth advertising is FREE SPEECH and nothing more. The government has its tentacles in way too many pieces of our lives. This is just one more intrusion.