Internet

Because That Whole Free-Speech-on-the-Internet Thing Was Just Keeping Us Down Too Long

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Do you have a disclosure form with that endorsement, mister?

Oh goody:

[F]ederal regulators are serving notice that if you stand to gain financially from the review you are writing, you should be upfront about it.

The Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday that a California marketing company had settled charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having its employees write and post positive reviews of clients' games in the Apple iTunes Store, without disclosing that they were being paid to do so.

The charges were the first to be brought under a new set of guidelines for Internet endorsements that the agency introduced last year. The guidelines have often been described as rules for bloggers, but they also cover anyone writing reviews on Web sites or promoting products through Facebook or Twitter.

We warned you about this last year. I particularly enjoyed the academic apologia in today's New York Times article:

When the guidelines were announced, many bloggers and users of services like Twitter complained of government overreach, and worried that they would have to disclose even tenuous connections with companies or services they wrote about.

But Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said the commission's first enforcement action under the guidelines should be seen as good news by those who were concerned.

"This case sort of shows that what they have in mind is not the individual blogger or Twitterer, but rather a professional endorser," Professor Zittrain said.

Emphasis on the "sort of," I guess.