should we be kept in the dark for blogger reviews?
Let's kick up some dust, just before we end the week with a scary question i.e. should bloggers be regulated to disclose either cash or freebies they receive for product reviews?
Why? You may ask, am I asking this suddenly. Well, it just happens the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to start regulating bloggers on this disclosure issue, last week. That has sent a buzz around the online community and even made its way to Singapore, where their Media Development Authority (MDA) claims it is looking into ways for stricter disclosure rules. One wonders, how long before the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission will also jump on the bandwagon too.
Let's analyse the FTC guidelines that were released in relation to "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsemens and Testimonials in Advertising." Per their guidelines, "a post from a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement". The guidelines continue to say, "bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product of the service." No mention about the kind of disclosure is required, as that is left to the blogger but it is required to be clear and conspicuous.
What happens when you violate these guidelines you ask? It is stated that if you regularly flout the guidelines or complaints are made, a fine of USD11,000 will be imposed for each violation. Already in Singapore there has been fiery exchanges on the Net with comments claiming this is a violation of blogger privacy.
I guess, since this is more of a food blog, one must ask this question, would you as a blog reader want to know when you read a blog post recommending a certain outlet for food, whether it is made clearly on top of the review, that it was an invited review where food was received as payment in kind or that particular blogger received a sum for writing that review?
Definitely food for thought, for all of you to chew on. Let me know your opinions and whether these FTC guidelines will be applicable here in Malaysia.
For further reading on this, see Wired's article on the FTC guidelines and Singapore's reaction to MDA's proposal to regulate bloggers. I also like this blog post from the Singapore Straits Times on how difficult it will be to police these regulations. One suggestion is to go after those companies that continues to practice these kind of reviews.