Out of Control Policy Blog

December 1: The Day Internet Freedom of Speech Dies

Online freedom of speech took its first hit as the Federal Trade Commission has decided to fine bloggers and other online reviewers--amateur or professional--who endorse products and do not disclose whether they have received complementary items or compensation from the manufacturer. The rule becomes effective December 1.

This marks the first time the government has stepped into the business of regulating publishers of  online content. Chances are it won't be the last. The camel's nose is under the tent. And although full disclosure might be good ethical practice (always a handy justification for regulation), it hardly merits a government rule that fines violators up to $11,000.

As I noted in June when these rules were being discussed, enforcement presents huge challenges. Plus, all the exceptions and explanations the FTC has issued about this rule (see the AP story) begs the question about why we need it in the first place.

To put this rule in context: Since the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787, no publisher was accountable or answerable to the U.S. government. December 1 that all changes. Conmsidering the Web is well on its way to being citizens' primary source of information and opinion--be it political or commercial--America is not better off for it.


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Comments to "December 1: The Day Internet Freedom of Speech Dies":

Xzavier A. | October 6, 2009, 6:02am | #

Really? I don't know this announcement. It's only known that he has been admitted to the hospital, and is not in very good condition, reportedly already being administered oxygen. Hopper is 73 years old. He has been in numerous films, and they range from the ridiculous straight to video B movie roles, to roles in some of the most influential films of all time, including a role in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and the film considered to still be his magnum opus, Easy Rider, which he directed and starred in alongside Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. Don't get payday loans for a Dennis Hopper tribute just yet – he still has some fight in him.

Disgusted | October 8, 2009, 4:29pm | #

What I am disappointed about is that this rule lets big business corporate media off the hook as far as disclosure, unless a reporter is directly receiving compensation. His manager or the corporation itself can be compensated in some way and not disclose it because the FTC has determined that I would not care. Starts at bottom of page 46.

http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdf

Bull. This kind of class warfare bent is not what I expected from the Obama administration at all. I hope people will write and complain about this bias. The rule itself is not ethical because of that.

Also, will big government entities like the CDC will have to disclose financial gain from the technologies they license and also regulate? They have a website, too, after all.

Search for: 'market share', 'profitability', 'freedom', in this.
http://www.cdc.gov/od/science/techTran/May_2009_Brochure.pdf

Overall an unethical, unneeded law that could be abused to target political bloggers.



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