Have A Blog? Be Careful What You Say

by Ron Haynes

I recently ran across an article in the Financial Times, a London based newspaper. The article was titled Advertisers brace for online viral marketing curbs. Here’s a quote:

“Revised guidelines on endorsements and testimonials by the Federal Trade Commission, now under review and expected to be adopted, would hold companies liable for untruthful statements made by bloggers and users of social networking sites who receive samples of their products. The guidelines would also hold bloggers liable for the statements they make about products. The blogger could be sued for making false representations. “

This could have a chilling effect on everything from Twitter to StumbleUpon to any other social media. Why? Mistakenly claim that a product re-grew hair and you’re potentially liable. Mistakenly claim that a software product will help someone get control of their finances and voila, you’re now liable. “That sunscreen protected me for 12 hours!” is now off limits!

The main target of the new guidelines appears to be the widespread practice of viral marketing in which companies recruit non- employees to talk up products in exchange for samples or promotions. “The guides needed to be updated to address not only the changes in technology, but also the consequences of new marketing practices,” said Richard Cleland, assistant director for the FTC’s division of advertising practices. “Word-of-mouth marketing is not exempt from the laws of truthful advertising.”

So, word of mouth marketing is now subject to the laws of truthful advertising? Wow. Comments like these would seem to indicate that this is more than just being interested in truthful advertising. Word-of-mouth? Geez.

I’ll be really careful about recommending a restaurant, talking around the water cooler about a book I read, and giving my opinion about sunscreen. Here are some legal options if you Twitter, blog, or post your opinion on the Internet:

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What do I think will happen?

This legislation will probably pass, but it will be incredibly hard to enforce. That doesn’t mean that some aggressive lawyers won’t give it their best shot, though. Go ahead and take the steps to protect yourself now.

Technorati Tags: ,,,,form a corporation,

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Ian Hendry

At the very least, surely this means the end of anonymous commenting on websites…? If a website owner is likely to fall foul of the law if a user posts a customer use story that doesn’t sit well with the product supplier, then the least that website owner will want is to be able to pursue the person that added the content in the first place.

Ian Hendry

Andy Wood

Oh, where to start… maybe something about the inmates and the asylum.

Expect to see this in the supreme court if it passes. Something about the First Amendment and all.

(No representation is made that the above comment is, has been, or ever will be construed as adequate legal advice or legal opinion on a local, state, or federal level. For proper legal opinions, see a board-certified attorney licensed to practice in your state. The above opinion is solely that of the commenter and was offered with no expectation that anyone would agree, disagree, be offended or not be offended, or ever pass it along to anyone else. Passing along this opinion is solely at the discretion of the opinion passer. The opinion maker claims no liability for how such an opinion will give get-a-life lawyers another reason to stay in business for one more day.)

Me. Pilgrim

That was good!


The “isms” in the history of the world want to destroy the Constitution and Bill of Rights of these United States of America. Sadly, the liberals in this country adhere to these “isms”. And, they are deaf and blind to our complaints about losing our freedoms, given to us in those great documents. Therefore…our grandchildren will not know the same America, we and our children knew while growing up. This is just one aspect of those freedoms eroding.


I can see the need for laws to evolve to help enforce truth in advertising. We need to protect our citizens from scammers, but I think this goes a little too far. How is hiring a blogger or an influencer on Twitter any different than hiring a high-power advertising agency?


The difference is “hiring.” A blogger who receives a free sample of shampoo isn’t and shouldn’t be considered a company representative, but that’s what this legislation proposes. I’m all for truthful advertising, but what’s the difference between someone who receives a free sample of shampoo at Costco or Sam’s and a blogger? Reach? Influence? Is there really ANY difference?

Th most chilling aspect is the attempt to muzzle free speech by regulating “word of mouth” advertising — by pople who don’t even work for the company in question.


I like Andy’s comment. I suppose everyone will start issuing disclaimers before they utter a word. I think the FTC is just looking for a reasons to be present. The more rules they set up,. the more people they would need to enforce, inform the public etc.

Once they have finished with the real purpose of their being set up, they think of these kind of additional tasks for themselves.

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