Chicago Tribune headline (via

FTC cracks down on fake online endorsements

Agency attempts to punish fake reviews, force disclosure

Nut graf:

Last October, the Federal Trade Commission updated its truth-in-advertising guidelines, which were last revised in 1980, to address the commercialism of the Web. The regulations require anyone paid in cash or in-kind to provide an online endorsement to disclose the financial relationship to the audience.

A year later, confusion still surrounds the endorsement guidelines. But one thing is clear: Fake online reviews will be punished.

In August, the FTC announced that a California public relations agency hired by video game developers will settle charges that it engaged in deceptive online advertising.

Specifically that “Reverb Communications Inc. had employees pose as consumers posting positive game reviews at the iTunes store.”

Whether the federal government should be the hall monitor of the consumer marketplace is a good question that’s well-explored in the Tribune piece. Still, the bedrock principle remains:

People have a right to know when they’re being advertised to.

John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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