Monday, June 22, 2009

To disclose or not to disclose

Two different ideas about whether bloggers need to disclose if they receive cash or free stuff that they blog about.

1. FTC is going to start monitoring blogs for not disclosing conflicts of interest.

2. Penelope Trunk's blog about how she doesn't disclose conflicts of interest and doesn't see why she should have to.

Without reading the FTC guidelines, I think this could be significant overkill and limit the free open discourse and communication in the blogaspshere. I don't think there would be any way for the FTC to police this. One count said there are 70 million blogs out there. Also, there would be so many grey areas. While I am sure that the FTC will not check into Trunk's oral sex perks, as Trunk points out, the conflicts of interest are not aways direct payment or gifts.

I think that in some cases people should voluntarily disclose conflicts to boost their credibility. If you find out an "independent" writer is getting paid by the companies or groups they are writing good things about you would wonder if their views are honest of just saying what they are paid to say.
Part of Trunk's point:
Readers should just want the post to be useful and interesting and all the other things you want from any post. Who cares how I get paid as long as I write well?

Blogs are not all the same and they are not objective newspapers. People should treat everything they read with a grain of salt from any source, MSM or blog from Uncle Stanley. The beauty of the web is that others are free to chime in if they smell something fishy and the truth will come out.

Even the FTCs attempt to limit false claims, how easy would that be and what is a blog? What is the scale of their jurisdiction and what is a blog? There is so much false information on the Internet it is ridiculous to think you could police it. There is false information about people politicians and celebrities, about products, about books and movies, about companies, where do you start. One thing that gets under my skin are travel sites (TripAdvisor) and reviews on Amazon, where you can see completely opposite views of something. Some see false for one reason or another but you don't know what to believe. I am sure the websites want real reviews but I am sure the companies are trying to boost their image as best they can.

I think the FTC should focus its efforts on large commercial websites and MSM sites and not the bloggers trying to put out something interesting. Regular people like me can't tell an ad from an story on a site like Money Magazine, Apple, Charter, ABC News or Yahoo and can't tell who is getting paid for what. Those are the big sites that have real influence on the market and they are the ones who need a watchdog. For example, I went to ABCNews Go website and they had a video "story" about 5 healthy home products for less. Are there any conflicts of interest there? does the corporate home have some ownership in the companies that are profiled? Did the companies pay to be included in this list?


KateNonymouos said...

"One thing that gets under my skin are travel sites (TripAdvisor) and reviews on Amazon, where you can see completely opposite views of something"

So you don't like it when people's opinions differ? That's not the same as information being false. And it's kind of tough luck, because people's opinions differ. They do in person, too--not just on line. Not sure how this fits with the rest of your post.

KateNonymous said...

Whoops. Apparently I can't type my own user name. Stupid jet lag.

froggyprager said...

Differences of opinion are fine and great. I should have been more clear on that. I was thinking about the FTCs policing of "false" claims and I have often seen revies that seem to be dishonest or false. I have heard that a hotel will put up some fake review of their hotel that sounds good and make it seem like it is from a regular visitor. Maybe the FTC will not be policing comments on a website but it gets into the grey area of what is a blog and who are they going to watch. Maybe the competion or disgruntaled fomrer employee could be motivated to write a bad review. Thanks for checking out my blog.