It looks like the heady days of the Internet is coming to an end. The new adminstration plans for regulating the web. The first target of the FTC is "Internet Endorsements."
Apparently, one of the dirty practices of the Internet is that tech firm developing a new product might do something underhanded like give bloggers a beta copy of the product. The blogger will then test the product and write a blog about the test. The blog post might include a link to the manufacturer.
A site writing book reviews might receive a free copy of a book from an author or publisher. The reviewer will read the book and write the review ... benefitting from having a free copy of a book.
Dirty practices, like beta testing products, are done by evil corporations in a concerted effort to build hype for a product.
The new regulatory regime wishes to stop this evil practice by demanding that bloggers clearly state any benefit they might receive for writing a blog post or otherwise listing a link.
The FTC plans to go after corporations engaged in dark practices (like beta testing) and slap them with a hefty $10,000 fine.
According to the FTC, bloggers can be safe if they simply write in each of their blog posts any benefit they receive from the post.
This new regulatory regime makes me sad, as I think bloggers should benefit from their actions. Personally, I never faulted anyone for being paid for their writing.
I have not received any free products for blogging. However, I am engaged in another dark practice of the internet called Affiliate Marketing.
The goal of the Community Color project project is to promote community-centric web development. What I do is list all of the web sites I can find find for a community in the Mountain West. For example, Boulder Color lists web sites and blogs from Boulder, Colorado.
Whenever I find a site with an affiliate program, I join the affiliate program and list the affiliate link. An affiliate program pays commissions on sales.
This evil practice means that there is a possibility of my benefitting from sending traffic to the site. I don't benefit much ... I barely cover the cost of hosting, but it is a benefit, and (if you follow leftist thought) any benefit received for work is evil.
Several of the sites in the Community Color program have a web browsing blog. These programs will periodically highlight a site. The Salt Lake Site has 925 such reviews. About 35 of the sites reviewed have evil affiliate programs.
I always had multiple disclaimers on the site to help people differentiate from affiliate listings and free listings. I spent the day strengthening the disclaimer and thinking dark thoughts about the FTC and the stupidity of their new ruling.
Looking through the book reviews in the newspaper ... they don't say if they received a free copy of the book. The restaurant reviews don't say if the reviewer received a free meal or extra treat for being a reviewer ... when we know perfectly well that companies send free products to media outlets for review.
I have not received any free products for review, but I have purchased CDs and books from other media concerns that did receive free products.
I've watched the video from Mary Engel several times trying to figure out how to stay in compliance with the regulatory regime, and feeling absolutely sick to my stomach that the administrations is going to start going after bloggers for engaging in practices that are common among the newspaper and publishing industry.