Bloggers Beware!

The FTC recently issued guidelines whereby bloggers could be fined up to $11,000 for plugging products/services – e.g. making endorsements – for which they had been paid or compensated in some way.

That’s an important move toward establishing some credibility in an online environment that has become increasingly difficult for “just plain folk” to navigate. While there has always been – and will always be – unethical behavior in the world of advertising and communication, something about the “wild,wild, West” nature of the Internet makes behaviors that might otherwise be obviously “wrong” seem somehow okay.

I wrote about a related topic recently for IABC (the International Association of Business Communicators) in an article titled Tweet Ethics: Trust and Transparency in a Web 2.0 World and was glad to find in researching the article that communication professionals – the real professionals – were of a like mind. There are certain ethical standards and obligations that are part and parcel of the profession and that most feel must be followed to maintain not only the integrity of the profession, but of individual professionals as well.

The trouble, I think, is that you no longer have to be a communication professional or even aware of the ethics and guidelines related to communication practices to be a journalist – or a PR practitioner – or even a publisher. Literally anyone can assume these roles.

It’s somewhat frightening but, on the other hand, I do believe that the wild world of the Web will ultimately self-regulate. Just as in the old media world where (some) consumers learn that publications like the National Enquirer often contain suspect information, some consumers will come to learn which sources to trust – and which to avoid – in the online world as well.

But until then, perhaps, government regulations and the fear of fines with real dollars involved will have to do.





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