The New York Times agrees with the FTC that messages in the media that are in fact advertisements must clearly admit as much, and that these rules, as a matter of course, should apply to online media. But it offers an important caveat – that enforcement must focus on the advertisers who initiate a deception, not the media.
NYT focused on print and the FTC’s extension of print principals to the blogosphere. But the rules apply to all media.
NYT notes that applicable regulation has been around for a long time. It wrote, “Deceiving consumers has long been illegal. Guidelines demanding that people who endorse a product for money disclose their connections with advertisers date back to 1980 — way before the age of tweets. In 1968, an F.T.C. advisory demanded that advertorials disclose that they were advertising, not editorial.”
However, NYT said that FTC must “tread carefully,” citing the danger of hamstringing the ability of writers to comment on the state of the world. It said that disclosure of an advertising relationship should of course be required. “To stay on the safe side, regulators should focus enforcement on the advertising companies rather than on the bloggers. Advertisers are the drivers of this new trend. The onus should be on them to ensure that blogs pitching their stuff warn readers about the commercial motivation of the endorsements.”
RBR-TVBR observation: This NYT editorial could be seen as self-serving, but we and probably most of you reading these words right now have to agree – the media is not equipped to judge the veracity of all advertising claims, and that job must stay in the hands of the FTC, FDA and other qualified and authoritative message cops.