The new legal guide section takes on the Federal Trade Commission's controversial "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising"
(the "Guidelines") that took effect on December 1, 2009. The FTC
Guidelines call for bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook users, and other
online publishers to disclose "material connections" they have with
companies whose products or services they endorse. The Guidelines also
say that bloggers may be held liable for makingmisleading or unsubstantiated claims about a product or service.
The Guidelines caused abitofanuproar
when the FTC announced them back in October. While some of the
criticisms are no doubt well founded, there also are plenty of
misunderstandings and exaggerations out there. We wanted to address
some of these errors, as well as to focus on the practical side of
complying with the Guidelines. On this front, we've got some good
news: there's little that can't be handled with some common sense and
Our new legal guide section
helps you understand what types of publishing activities are covered by
the Guidelines, what constitutes a product or service "endorsement,"
and how to go about disclosing a relationship. Putting aside a few gray areas,
the Guidelines require disclosure of only relatively established
relationships with companies—like getting paid, participating in a
network marketing program, or receiving a steady stream of freebies—and making disclosure is simple and straightforward.
The legal guide also looks at recent public statements from the FTC
staff suggesting that the agency is interested in educating rather than
suing bloggers and social media users. Overall, it's fair to say the
picture is not as grim as commonly supposed.