Regs ‘unfairly and unconstitutionally’ impose penalties on online media, opines IAB
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to withdraw recently issued enforcement guidance regarding the options and commentary of bloggers and other participants in social media.
The IAB said that the rules ‘unfairly and unconstitutionally’ impose penalties on online media for practices, which offline media has long been engaged in.
In an open letter to FTC, Randall Rothenberg, the president and CEO of IAB, said that the portions of the Guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising would explicitly muzzle online media, while exempting offline media from equivalent scrutiny or penalty.
Mr Rothenberg said: “What concerns us the most in these revisions is that the Internet, the cheapest, most widely accessible communications medium ever invented, would have less freedom than other media. These revisions are punitive to the online world and unfairly distinguish between the same speech, based on the medium in which it is delivered.
“I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide the invaluable content and services that have so transformed people’s lives.”
Reportedly, the Guides include revisions that specifically address online media and will require that bloggers who receive free products to review must disclose that they received those products for free or be subject to civil enforcement penalties.
Mr Rothenberg added: “In other words, the Guides do allow you to pursue bloggers. They do hold individuals more liable than larger corporations. They do explicitly say online social media have less protection than offline corporate media. They do obstruct online companies’ opportunities to drive cultural conversation more than offline companies’. They do threaten with prosecution book publishers, movie producers, and other companies that supply products to individual social media conversationalists.”
The FTC guidelines mark the first crucial attempt by the agency to revise its endorsement and testimonial policies in about 30 years.