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Changes to FTC regulations affect Twitter, blogs

Bloggers’ continued efforts to take over the world have been noticed by someone in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In their updated “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” the FTC details explicitly how the pre-existing laws on product endorsements affect bloggers.

A portion of the blogosphere is up in arms. They shout that they are losing their freedom, that they are going to get sued and have to pay $10,000 per violation, and that there is no room in their tweets to fit in the required material.

But the examples given in the updated FTC guidelines are completely in line with what we would expect from traditional media sources — disclosures of free products and long-standing financial or material relationships with advertisers and companies. This clarified guideline is not a change to existing law, but exists to clarify to consumers (blog readers) where bias may exist in product endorsements.

These guidelines will also rarely affect the average blogger, but allow for clarity of enforcement that pertains to the blogging collectives.

And as for Twitter, based on the FTC comment notice, it seems that it is being left behind in a legal gray area, hiding somewhere between a blogging service and a communication network. However, again, the refinement of these guidelines focuses on consumer clarity: If you are being supported with a constant stream of free toys, you should let your blog and twitter know.

We aren’t against these updated guidelines; they aren’t outrageous. Blogs need to be fair to consumers, and this update is just another push in the right direction for bloggers to have a few rules they need to follow. But to have the FTC realize there is something worth regulating, the legitimacy of blogs is increased. It is one more signal to traditional media that they are being replaced.

Please note the Tartan Editorial Board is in no way affiliated with the Federal Trade Commission, and received no free copies of any blogs or Internets to assist in the writing of this article. Sadly.