If you get paid to write a review for your blog, that fact … that you were paid … should be disclosed on said blog.

That is, it would seem to me, to be a reasonable ethical consideration, but since bloggers don’t actually have ethics (formally) perhaps it is good for the FTC to make this statement.

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday took steps to make product information and online reviews more accurate for consumers, regulating blogging for the first time and mandating that testimonials reflect typical results.

The FTC will require that writers on the Web clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products. The commission also said advertisers featuring testimonials that claim dramatic results cannot hide behind disclaimers that the results aren’t typical.

source: MSNBC

These are guidelines, but they are interpretations of existing law, so they are important guidelines.

So, bloggers who write book reviews: This does NOT mean that it is unethical for you to receive a copy of the book you are reviewing for free, or that you have to disclose that you got the book for free. That is standard inudstry practice and is not considered a payoff.

You DO have to disclose if you get stuff (including money) on a regular basis or something other than the book on a one time basis for the purpose of compelling you (or paying you) to write a nice review for a product.

Reviews of things beyond books that you got for free … like a car or a stereo, etc. … are covered by this ruling. Normally these items are returned after the review. If you are getting the car or the stereo or the trip to Disneyland for free, that is a payoff.

But bloggers are a paranoid group prone to anti-social and Lord of the Flies effects.

The FTC’s proposal made many bloggers anxious. They said the scrutiny would make them nervous about posting even innocent comments.

To placate such fears, Cleland said the FTC will more likely go after an advertiser instead of a blogger for violations. The exception would be a blogger who runs a “substantial” operation that violates FTC rules and already received a warning, he said.

That, of course, will not actually placate most skittish bloggers. But the information is out there. Do what you will with it.

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