A lot has happened since we launched the Food Blog Code of Ethics. Discussions about blogging ethics have sprung up across the Internet, prompting bloggers of all stripes to voice their opinions. Some claimed the blogosphere was the Wild West and thrived on lawlessness, others suggested a need for regulations.
Blogging Gets Its Hand Slapped
But the biggest change came in October 2009, when the Federal Trade Commission decided it was time to update its rules regarding endorsements and testimonials, a document written long before online content existed, let alone required regulation. With print magazines and newspapers failing left and right and untraditional marketing opportunities springing up on blogs and in social media, the Federal Trade Commission realized it was time to create clear guidelines for businesses looking to establish relationships with online publishers.
“Endorsements in print ads or on television are clear, because it is obviously the company’s advertisement,’’ says Mary Engle, the FTC’s associate director of consumer protection. “It became very clear to us when we began our regular periodic review of guides in 2007 that because of all the social media going on we’d need to update them.’’
According to the FTC’s updated stance: bloggers, Twitterers and other online reviewers are now required to disclose their “material connection” with corporate sponsors or advertisers. As of December 1, 2009, businesses are now legally required to disclose gifts or payments to bloggers and other online writers, to subsidize posts dedicated to their product(s). The FTC also updated its endorsement and testimonial rules, now holding celebrity endorsers liable for false statements about a product. Each infringement of these rules will cost the guilty party (i.e. the business) $11,000.