This post is not an ad

In my previous post about the FTC’s new guidelines for bloggers I wondered whether the new rules would apply to Twitter. According to the FTC, they do:

As for Twitter, the FTC isn’t letting you get a pass with the excuse that 140 characters–Twitter’s famous text limit–is simply too short. “There are ways to abbreviate a disclosure that fit within 140 characters,” Cleland said. “You may have to say a little bit of something else, but if you can’t make the disclosure, you can’t make the ad.”

That’s funny, when I mention liking a product on Twitter, I didn’t know I am “making an ad.” I thought I was expressing an opinion to the people who follow my feed.

Lots of my tweets, I mean ads, are in technical violation of this rule. I go to tastings and dinners all the time. I’m going to one tonight, in fact. If a few hours from now I post something like “This cocktail with Brand X is delicious!” without adding that they gave me the drink for free, I could be fined for not making the disclosure.

Of course I’m not so much of an internet celebrity (alas!) that the big bad FTC is going to spend time reading my tweets. But it’s silly make this activity illegal and it raises the prospect that people will use FTC complaints as a way to get revenge against bloggers and Twitterers they don’t like. Like Jeff Jarvis, I would rather have a messy, unregulated, and free internet than an internet that’s aggressively sanitized by the government busybodies.

Update: Jack Shafer weighs in here. Thanks, Ben!


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