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FTC Tells Search Engines to Clearly Distinguish Between Ads and Search Results

FTC cracking down on a free service

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has a message for Google Inc. (GOOG), Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) and other Internet companies: make sure online ads are clearly distinguished from regular Web-search results to avoid misleading customers.

The FTC, updating recommendations in place for more than a decade, said search sites are displaying advertising more prominently on pages while doing less to highlight it. That has made it difficult for users to distinguish ads from results that aren't backed by ad dollars, the FTC said. The regulator lamented a "decline in compliance" with guidelines from 2002.