The FTC laid down a bombshell yesterday on the internet by leveraging its authority to protect the consumers on the internet from fake blogs, inflated testimonials, and affiliate spamming. But at what cost is it to the worldwide web as whole?
We’ve been seeing a lot of precursors to this lately:
- Rumors about new regulations with Testimonials
- Google slapping down product review sites (I have a few comments about this one!)
- The on-flux of scammy CPA offers hidden as flogs throughout the internet
- Talk about further government regulation of the internet
Yesterday, this all got more defined.
The FTC formally released a new Regulation Governing the Use of Testimonial and Endorsements on the internet. The actual full publication can be read here.
I’ve been watching this unravel for the last couple of days, too. Some are saying this is the end of affiliate marketing. Others are blaming flogs (fake blogs) due to the document’s specific call-out to bloggers and the endorsements they make. Social media is coming under attack, too. The virtual “word-of-mouth” seems to need further justification now.
And what about the testimonials? I talked about this months ago (back in April). Now the new regulation states that advertisers must specify “typical” results and the old disclaimer “results are not typical” no longer applies.
Personally, I think this is a huge step towards further government internet regulation, attacks our own freedom of speech and suppression of content throughout the world.
We know they are initial targeting certain people, but how they are going to regulate it seems to be a mystery. The fact that they seem to be targeting blogging and social media concerns me even more. One of the greatest things about blogging and social media is the “conversation”. And a big part of conversation is always about opinion.
So if someone monetizes this opinion, does it constitute a conflict of interest?
This is a question I have received hundreds of times as the founder and manager of TheWebReviewer.com. Because I write a review of a product and I ultimately monetize those who take action, does this nullify the validity of my opinion?
This is an issue I have struggled with, but chose to accept by providing evidence to my claims and my own personal successes. I sleep well at night knowing this. (But this did not protect me! I’ll save that one for my next post!)
So does this mean that monetizing with blogs and social media is over?
Absolutely not! One caveat to the new regulations is that you do need to state the fact that your link could result in earnings. Note, though, they are very vague about where you need to do this. Right now, I put a disclaimer at the bottom of any page which I have an affiliate link on.
For bloggers and social marketers, I don’t think this should affect you too much, because you should already have a relationship with your community that is strong enough that telling them it is an affiliate link won’t discredit your opinion (or their decision to buy through your link).
As for the testimonials, this has already been a issue for months (one that has been ignored). I don’t know how this is going to work. In my industry (home business), conversion and sales letters are based on these non-typical, inflated results. How do you even measure a “typical experience”? 95% of those who buy home business products don’t even give them a second look.
Further, how are they going to patrol all of this? I think you will find the “bigger”, “scammy” players (those who create the fake blogs, for example) will be under attack. It will probably require human review and resources. That still does not mean the even the smaller players should not take notice. It takes just one disgruntled complaint to draw the attention of someone.
So we return to the initial questions:
“Is the internet a better place to have these FTC Regulations in Place?”
I understand WHY they are doing this - to product the consumer. BUT, in doing so, they are taking away rights, punishing those who DO run legitimate businesses, and ultimately opening the doors to further regulations and suppression of information.
What’s to say they start blocking IP’s from outside nations (Places that they CANNOT regulate)? Are you prepared for a change from the world-wide web to the United-States web? I’m not.
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