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The FTC should not regulate bloggers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to implement new endorsement guidelines that would regulate blogs and other social media Web sites. The regulations would allow the FTC to hold companies accountable for claims made by bloggers who review or endorse their product and bloggers may be prosecuted for making false or unsupported claims.

When it comes to purchasing decisions, many people turn to blogs and social Web sites for product reviews because average people who have had real experience using the product supposedly write them.

The FTC is concerned because many reviewers receive gifts or payments from companies to write their reviews. According to the Associated Press, bloggers have received payments of thousands of dollars and gifts that include laptops and trips to Europe.

Richard Cleland, assistant director in the FTC’s division of advertising practices, said to AP, “online, if you think that somebody is providing you with independent advice and … they have an economic motive for what they’re saying — that’s information a consumer
should know.”

While it may be unethical to receive undisclosed payments to review or endorse a product, the FTC has no place in regulating blogs. Anyone with access to the Internet can write a blog and consumers should already know to take what they read online with a grain of salt, regardless of whether the blogger was paid. A purchasing decision should not be based on an unprofessional opinion from an anonymous source.

Regulation would hurt the blogging community, as blogging is popular because of its accessibility and fear of prosecution would stop many unpaid consumers from reviewing products.

Richard O’Brien, vice-president of 4A’s, an ad trade organization, wrote in a letter to the FTC that “bloggers and other viral marketers will be discouraged from publishing content for fear of being held liable for any potentially misleading claim.”

A blog is essentially a personal opinion, and should be regarded as such. Though a blogger’s viewpoint could be influenced when it comes to a product review, the FTC has no business regulating the opinions of private individuals.