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FTC and Reason

The FTC is going to monitor blogs to make sure when they review or praise products, they disclose if they were paid to say that.

"If you walk into a department store, you know the (sales) clerk is a clerk," said Rich Cleland, assistant director in the FTC's division of advertising practices. "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."
Why should a consumer know that? What does it matter?

If an advertisement or product review functions by persuasion, then it's irrelevant. How persuasive an argument is or isn't does not depend on whether the author was paid.

The FTC has a different model of how consumers shop in mind. In this model, people vouch for products and consumers judge whether to trust them based on their integrity and authority. Reason and persuasion are irrelevant.

I don't think the FTC should monitor whether sources of information are reputable, because I don't think it matters. I have one caveat. If a company pays a blogger to write demonstrably false factual claims about its product, then that's fraud.

I think the FTC sees it this way: when a blogger claims to have integrity (which all product reviews implicitly claim unless they state otherwise), but actually was paid to say stuff and hasn't disclosed this, then that's fraud. It's a demonstrably false factual claim about the author of the product review.

It's a shame how many ideas are judged by their source rather than their content.

Elliot Temple on June 21, 2009

Messages (2)

Lies! All lies!

You were paid to write that, weren't you!


Anonymous at 2:27 PM on June 21, 2009 | #1784 | reply | quote

LOL at previous comment.

I think in context the source can matter and I think it's not the problem here. The problem is thinking that letting individuals free to figure out things by themselves is a bad thing and also the entrenched idea that only selfless action is moral, that if people praise something for profit they have be lying.

Anonymous at 12:38 AM on June 23, 2009 | #1785 | reply | quote

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