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Truth in advertising is important in all media, whether they have been around for decades like television and magazines or are relatively new like blogs and social media. They simply recommend those products to their readers because they believe in them.

Moreover, the financial arrangements between some bloggers and advertisers may be apparent to industry insiders, but not to everyone else who reads a particular blog. Are you monitoring bloggers? Generally not, legal earnings on the Internet reviews if concerns about possible violations of the FTC Act come to our attention, we evaluate them case by case.

If law enforcement becomes necessary, our focus usually will be on advertisers or their ad agencies and public relations firms. Action against an individual endorser, however, might be appropriate in certain circumstances, such as if the endorser has continued to fail to make required disclosures despite warnings.

Does the FTC hold bloggers to a higher standard than reviewers for traditional media outlets? The FTC Act applies across the board. On a personal blog, a social networking page, or legal earnings on the Internet reviews similar media, the reader might not realize that the reviewer has a relationship with the company whose products are being recommended.

Disclosure of that relationship helps readers decide how much weight to give the review. What is the legal basis for the Guides? The FTC conducts investigations and brings means to make money involving endorsements made on behalf of an advertiser under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which generally prohibits deceptive advertising.

The Guides are intended to give insight into what the FTC thinks about various marketing activities involving endorsements and how Section 5 might apply to those activities.

However, practices inconsistent with the Guides may result in law enforcement actions alleging violations of the FTC Act.

Law enforcement actions can result in orders requiring the defendants in the case to give up money they received from their violations and to abide by various requirements in the future. I heard that every time I mention a product on my blog, I have to say whether I got it for free or paid for it myself.

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Is that true? Nor is it an issue if you get the product for free because a store is giving out free samples to its customers. The FTC is only concerned about endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. For example, an endorsement would be covered by the FTC Act if an advertiser — or someone working for an advertiser — pays you or gives you something of value to mention a product.

Bloggers who are part of network marketing programs, where they sign up to receive free product samples in exchange for writing about them, also are covered.

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Does that still have to be disclosed? The question you need to ask is whether knowing about that gift or incentive would affect the weight or credibility your readers give to your recommendation. If it could, then it should be disclosed.

For example, being entered into a sweepstakes or a contest for a chance to win a thousand dollars in exchange for an endorsement could very well affect how people view that endorsement. Determining whether a small gift would affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement could be difficult.

Even an incentive with no financial value might affect the credibility of an endorsement and would need to be disclosed. The Guides give the example of a restaurant patron being offered the opportunity to appear in television advertising before giving his opinion about a product.

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Because the chance to appear in a TV ad could sway what someone says, that incentive should be disclosed. My company makes a donation to charity anytime someone reviews our product.

Do we need to make a disclosure? Some people might be inclined to leave a positive review in an effort to earn more money for charity. The overarching principle remains: If readers of the reviews would evaluate them differently knowing that they were motivated in part by charitable donations, there should be a disclosure.

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Therefore, it might be better to err on the side of caution and disclose that donations are made to charity in exchange for reviews. What if I upload a video to YouTube that shows me reviewing several products?

Should I disclose that I got them from an advertiser? The guidance for videos is the same as for websites or blogs. What if I return the product after I review it? Should I still make a disclosure?

The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking

That might depend on the product and how long you are allowed legal earnings on the Internet reviews use it. For example, if you get free use of a car for a month, we recommend a disclosure even though you have to return it. I have a website that reviews local restaurants. If you get free meals, you should let your readers know so they can factor that in when they read your reviews.

If they talk about their experience on social media, is that something that should be disclosed? First, it may be relevant to readers that people endorsing your restaurant on social media are related to you. Therefore, they should disclose that personal relationship. Second, if you are giving free meals to anyone and seeking their endorsement, then their reviews in social media would be viewed as advertising subject to FTC jurisdiction.

Therefore, if someone who eats for free at your invitation posts about your restaurant, readers of the post would probably want to know that the meal was on the house. I have a YouTube channel that focuses on hunting, camping, and the outdoors.

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Knife manufacturers know how much I love knives, so they send me knives as free gifts, hoping that I will review them. Your viewers may assess your review differently if they knew you got the knife for free, legal earnings on the Internet reviews we advise disclosing that fact. Several months ago a manufacturer sent me a free product and asked me to write about it in my blog.

I tried the product, liked it, and wrote a favorable review.

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When I posted the review, I disclosed that I got the product for free from the manufacturer. I still use the product.

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Do I have to disclose that I got the product for free every time I mention it in my blog? It might depend on what you say about it, but each new endorsement made without a disclosure could be deceptive because readers might not see the original blog post where you said you got the product free from the manufacturer.

The association is only hiring me for five hours a week. But sometimes I get questions about the conference in my off time. Can that be solved by placing a badge for the conference in my Twitter profile? You have a financial connection to the company that hired you and that relationship exists whether or not you are being paid for a particular tweet. If you are endorsing the conference in your tweets, your audience has a right to know about your relationship.

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But when you respond via social media, all your followers see your posts and some of them might not have legal earnings on the Internet reviews your earlier disclosures. Also, depending upon what it says, the badge may not adequately inform consumers of your connection to the trade association.

They will fly me to the launch and put me up in a hotel for a couple of nights. If I write a blog sharing my thoughts about the product, should I disclose anything? Knowing that you received free travel and accommodations could affect how much weight your readers give to your thoughts about the product, so you should disclose that you have a financial relationship with the company. I share in my social media posts about products I use. Do I actually have to say something positive about a product for my posts to be endorsements covered by the FTC Act?

Simply posting a picture of a product in social media, such as on Pinterest, or a video of you using it could convey that you like and approve of the product. The FTC Act covers only endorsements made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. Tagging a brand you are wearing is an endorsement of the brand and, just like any other endorsement, could require a disclosure if you have a relationship with that brand. Yes, an endorsement can be aspirational. If the blogger was paid, it should be disclosed.

No money changes hands. Do I need to make a disclosure? The connection could be friendship, family relationships, or strangers who make a deal. My Facebook page identifies my employer.

Should I include an additional disclosure when I post on Facebook about how useful one of our products is? People reading your posts in their news feed — or on your profile page — might not know legal earnings on the Internet reviews you work or what products your employer makes.

Work under a contract

A famous athlete has thousands of followers on Twitter and is well-known as a spokesperson for a particular product. Determining whether followers are aware of a relationship could be tricky in many cases, so we recommend disclosure. A famous celebrity has millions of followers on Twitter.

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Many people know that she regularly charges advertisers to mention their products in her tweets. It depends on whether her followers understand that her tweets about products are paid endorsements. Again, determining that could be tricky, so we recommend disclosure. I create sponsored beauty videos on YouTube.

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The products that I promote are also sold in the U. To the extent it is reasonably foreseeable that your YouTube videos will be seen by and affect U. Also, the U. Is that different from a product placement and does the payment have to be disclosed? Is that an "endorsement" that needs a disclosure? Many people enjoy sharing their fondness for a particular product or service with their social networks.

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I am an avid social media user who often gets rewards for participating in online campaigns on behalf of brands. I posted a review of a service on a website. Now the marketer has taken my review and changed it in a way that I think is misleading. Am I liable for that? What can I do? You could, and probably should, complain to the marketer and ask them to stop using your altered review.

You also could file complaints with the FTC, your local consumer protection organization, and the Better Business Bureau. Is there special wording I have to use to make the disclosure? The point is to give readers the essential information. Do I have to hire a lawyer to help me write a disclosure?

What matters is effective communication. Do I need to list the details of everything I get from a company for reviewing a product? What matters is whether the information would have an effect on the weight readers would give your review.

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And if it is something so small that it would not affect the weight readers would give your review, you may not need to disclose anything. When should I say more than that I got a product for free? It depends on whether you got something else from the company. For example, if an app developer gave you their cent app for free for you to review it, that information might not have much effect on the weight that readers give to your review.

The manufacturer is paying me to try the game and review it. If you get early access, you can say that, but if you get to keep the game or are paid, you should say so.

If I upload a video to YouTube and that video requires a disclosure, can I news trade beer put the disclosure in the description that I upload together with the video? No, because consumers can easily miss disclosures in the video description. Many people might watch the video without even seeing the description page, and those who do might not read the disclosure.

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What about a disclosure in the description of an Instagram post? When people view Instagram streams, longer descriptions are truncated, with only the first two or three lines displayed. It does not convey the importance, nature, and relevance of the information to which it leads and it is likely that many consumers will not click on it and therefore will miss necessary disclosures.

The disclosures we are talking about are brief and there is no space-related reason to use a hyperlink to provide access to them. The social media platform I use has a built-in feature that allows me to disclose paid endorsements. Is it sufficient for me to rely on that tool? Not necessarily. It still depends on an evaluation of whether the tool clearly and conspicuously discloses the relevant connection.

One factor the FTC will look to is placement. A key consideration is how users view the screen when using a particular platform. For example, on a photo platform, users paging through their streams will likely look at the eye-catching images. Therefore, a disclosure placed above a photo may not attract their attention. Similarly, a disclosure in the lower corner of a video could be too easy for users to overlook. Second, the disclosure should use a simple-to-read font with a contrasting background that makes it stand out.

Ambiguous phrases are likely to be confusing. For example, simply flagging that a post contains paid content might not be sufficient if the post mentions multiple brands and not all of the mentions were paid. The big-picture point is that the ultimate responsibility for clearly disclosing a material connection rests with the influencer and the brand — not the platform.

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How can I make a disclosure on Snapchat or in Instagram Stories? You can superimpose a disclosure on Snapchat or Instagram Stories just as you can superimpose any other words over the images on those platforms.

The disclosure should be easy to notice and read in the time that your followers have to look at the image. In determining whether your disclosure passes muster, factors you should consider include how much time you give your followers to look at the image, how much competing text there is to read, how large the disclosure is, and how well it contrasts against the image. You might want to have a solid background behind the disclosure.