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FTC: Bloggers Must Disclose Paid Endorsements

If you read blogs or use Facebook and Twitter, you might have friends who share information about coffee, makeup, toys or other products they like.

Advertisers are trying to take advantage of those relationships by paying bloggers and tweeters. The Federal Trade Commission has announced rules that will require bloggers and tweeters to be open about those connections.

Among those bloggers affected is Andrew Bennett. He might not make millions from product endorsements like LeBron James, but he does have a few hundred followers on his blog who take him seriously.


Bennett seeks out products, like a home soda maker, that he can promote for money from a site called SocialSpark, which lists advertisers who want to pay to get on blogs.

"Basically, that allows you to pick and choose what opportunities you'd like to blog about," he says.

Bennett says bloggers can make between $50 and $500, depending on how many followers they have. SocialSpark also requires bloggers to tell their readers that they are being paid. But it doesn't necessarily tell them how.

"There is no specific one way to disclose them," Bennett says. "We are trying very hard to disclose every way possible."

Now, Bennett and other bloggers will be required by the FTC to tell people when they are blogging or tweeting for money. Even though Bennett already does this, he's worried. He says the regulations are very vague about how he must disclose his connections.


Advertisers are also concerned, says Anthony DiResta, an attorney who consults with major advertising firms.

"It's pretty interesting how to figure out where to put disclosure," he says. "Is it an audio platform? Is it visual? Is it limited like Twitter is?"

Officials at the FTC say they want to work with the advertisers to come up with clear policies.

Kelly McBride, of the nonprofit Poynter Institute for journalism, says this is an important step: While many consumers can tell a commercial from a program on television, she says they can be naive when their Facebook friends say they're a fan of McDonald's.

"For the most part, people assume that those are genuine, positive reviews of whatever product it is," McBride says.

McBride hopes that the new regulations will help create more awareness among the general public about how advertising works in the new world of social media.

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