October 6, 2009

The FTC going after bloggers and social media is like "sending a government goon into Denny’s to listen to the conversations in the corner booth and demand that you disclose that your Uncle Vinnie owns the pizzeria whose product you just endorsed."

Says Jeff Jarvis, because most people who blog and use Facebook and the like "don’t think they are doing anything remotely connected to journalism."

The most absurd part of it is the way the FTC is trying to make it okay by assuring us that they will be selective in deciding which writers on the internet to pursue. That is, they've deliberately made a grotesquely overbroad rule, enough to sweep so many of us into technical violations, but we're supposed to feel soothed by the knowledge that government agents will decide who among us gets fined. No, no, no. Overbreath itself is a problem. And so is selective enforcement.

58 comments:

rhhardin said...

assuring us that they will be selective

That means the FTC loses immediately.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Surely this is not that big a deal is it? I mean it can't be any worse than the Fairness Doctrine nicht wahr?

AllenS said...

This administration is just like the Bush administration, except with less freedoms.

MayBee said...

Bloggers are a little inconsistent as a group, aren't they?
On the left, they are complaining because Schumer doesn't want bloggers covered by journalism shield laws.
It seems to me bloggers are either the guys at Denny's or they follow journalism rules.

Fred4Pres said...

Drudge is clearly a journalistic site. Hot Air and Michelle Malkin...yes. Townhall...yes. Glenn Reynolds...yes. Jeff Jarvis too.

Even Althouse...sometimes, yes.

But the question should be why should the FTC monitor anything. Given the blogosphere's tendency to fisk other sites, look for conflicts, isn't the potential for abuse pretty low?

Florida said...

Jeez, Ann, it's almost like you regret helping to put these Socialists into power when you were warned this was exactly what they would do if you voted for them.

If you vote for Socialists, don't be too surprised if you get Socialism.

Thanks for fucking over the rest of us.

MPorcius said...

I'm sure if you don't say anything bad about Obama you will be fine. Or maybe, if you don't fail to say something good about Obama you will be fine. Anyway, you will be fine.

Wordverification: mulnests
I'm sure the FTC bureaucrats won't mulnest you if you start bitching online about the FTC.

Brian O'Connell said...

MayBee: But these aren't journalism rules. These rules apply to bloggers and social media users, not big corporate journalism. When was the last time you read an MSM book review or movie review where the review has a freebie disclaimer? Seems to me that I've seen such a disclaimer far more often on blogs than in newspapers and magazines.

Combine the new FTC guidelines with the feds' recent crafting of a shield law which doesn't include bloggers and it starts to look like the govt is creating a two-tiered First Amendment: one for the professionals, and one for us schlubs. The FEC is not too happy with free speech from citizens either.

And it's not a partisan matter. All 4 FTC idiots are Bush appointees.

Treacle said...

Glenn Reynolds has been hitting a theme lately that this seems related to: the criminalization of normal behavior.

So watch it, Ann. Next time you shill secretly for MiracleGro with one of your Foliage Cafe pictures, I'm ratting you out.

AJ Lynch said...

People:

The Obama admin is simply trying to create jobs!

If each of us has an FTC agent reading our blog [heck that would double my blog's traffic!], think of all the people we can put back to work!

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm going to go back to the 'How McCain Lost Me' thread and see how that's holding up these 9 months later.....

Kirk Parker said...

Althouse, you might want to fix your penultimate sentence. "Overbreath" does sound like a serious problem, just not the one you're dealing with here. :-)

wv: trace (I kid you not)--the FTC is going to trace down all your undisclosed freebies.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They are just dipping their toe into the water to see how much censorship and control they can start enforcing over the internet and then to other areas of communication that don't kow tow to the Won's aura.

Just the beginning folks.

Paul Chiari said...

The FTC will next go after talk radio to try and silence critics of this administration. This is Marxism 101. And once the government has used the so called "Intellectuals" to help them gain firm hold over the middle class, the "Intellectuals" will be the next group to get gobbled up. I saw a re-declaration of independence at http://www.TheseSelfEvidentTruths.com yesterday. I am beginning to think something like this will really be needed.

MayBee said...

Given the blogosphere's tendency to fisk other sites, look for conflicts, isn't the potential for abuse pretty low?

How I feel about the FTC's decision aside, I don't think the blogosphere's tendency to fisk other sites does the reader of any one particular site any good.
We want the WaPo and NYTs to write their corrections prominently on their own sites and in their own papers, right? We don't consider things corrected just because someone somewhere else pointed out their flaws.

Pogo said...

Thank God for the FTC.
All praise to them, doing the work that needs to be done.
No complaints from me!
I say 'raise their pay!'

hawkeyedjb said...

So, if bloggers need to "follow journalism rules," just who makes these rules. Are they government rules? The government now decides what is legitimate and what isn't? This sounds like a rule that is intended to allow the government to harass whoever it feels like harassing on any given day.

This one is a pretty clear dividing line: those in favor of these 'rules' are opposed to free speech. They favor regulated speech, which is the opposite of free speech. To paraphrase Ms. Garofolo, this is statism straight up.

Pogo said...

In the future, everyone will be guilty for 15 minutes.

MayBee said...

So, if bloggers need to "follow journalism rules," just who makes these rules. Are they government rules?

I don't know, either. But the government is getting ready to put a journalism shield law in place. There is certainly some rule-making involved in that.

mcallen3 said...

Am I reading this rule right? When I taught environmental law I got free books from the publishers.

Under this rule, if I wrote on my blog "Prof. Rogers' book is the best" without disclosing that I got it free, the FTC could prosecute me. Geez!

mca

Joe said...

"don’t think they are doing anything remotely connected to journalism."

This just pisses me off. Journalists aren't special nor do they deserve any special protections. Free speech is free speech. Congress shall make no law doesn't carve out some special protections for high and mighty journalists. The entire distinction is utter bullshit.

(The FTC is also mostly bullshit--a big chunk of their powers aren't remotely constitutional. But then again neither is most campaign regulation, but until we have a supreme court with any actual balls, it won't make a hill of beans difference.)

former law student said...

Journalists have developed an ethical code that bloggers have not. I would prefer self-regulation and peer-regulation to government regulation.

Bloggers: heal yourselves.

Kirk Parker said...

FLS,

"Journalists have developed an ethical code that bloggers have not."

Please get it right: it's the "Walter Duranty Memorial Code of Ethics"!

Hoosier Daddy said...

Journalists have developed an ethical code that bloggers have not.

Well considering the number of flat out false news stories, doctored photos and attempts to effect Presidential elections, I would suggest journalists revisit their so called ethical code.

Penny said...

But the intention, it's good. Right?

The government hired 300 people to administer the cash for clunkers program. Last I heard that number got up to 900. Does anyone think they let go those 900 people after the program's end? Additionally, the program jump started our car manufacturer's business. But not as much as it jump started foreign car manufacturer's businesses.

This is just like that. More people on the government payroll, or dole, if you prefer, and those "foreigners" will most likely benefit the most.

Accumulating power and transferring wealth is a dirty business, but someone's got to do it. Right?

ricpic said...

No self-respecting paisan eats at Denny's.

Freder Frederson said...

Yeah, I would really like to know how much Rush is paying you to shill for him. I always wondered how much the soul of a law professor was worth. Probably about a $1.99.

Stephen Snell said...

1) Reading posts such as this one make me ever more happy that I recently shifted to an emphasis on criminal and tax law.

2) As a self-respecting paisan, I will say this: eating breakfast food at Denny's is okay, but they're so overpriced that here in 24-hour land, a zillion places offer the same menu for 1/2 the price.

3) Freder: if someone gut punches you, how many douches do you spit up?

Just Lurking said...

The FTC is going after the bloggers. Shock and surprise. Raise you're hand if you didn't see this coming?

Glenn Reynolds has been hitting a theme lately that this seems related to: the criminalization of normal behavior.

When even the normal becomes illegal, then we are all criminals subject to arrest at any time.

Alex said...

fls:

"Dan Rather code of ethics"
"Stephen Glass code of ethics"

Alex said...

Also I don't see any real investigative journalism anymore in the MSM, how can they even pretend to be called that? Of course it's par for the course that the lefties will come on here and say that MSM-journalists are holy and bloggers are not.

traditionalguy said...

Does this mean that lawyers will be needed by bloggers? That is good news. We can write the super fast flashing disclaimers in the corner of the Web-page. For Althouse we can write warnings that although this blog is a Wisconsin Law School cheese blog, that the Professor also has her own strong opinions and a quick wit. That should warn people not to be tricked into eating Wisconsin cheese just because they have been entertained.

Republican said...

Just wait till the FTC starts shutting you down for what you MIGHT say.

You know, to prevent potential readers from being potentially offended.

Alex said...

Do we even have a Constitution anymore?

SH said...

AJ Lynch said...

"If each of us has an FTC agent reading our blog [heck that would double my blog's traffic!], think of all the people we can put back to work!"

That is an imporant part... when I was younger one argument I had for paranoids worried the government was listening was they didn't employee enough people to bother.... ahem... Since then its MORE than doubled in size...

crypticguise said...

The FCC and other bureaucracies are ultimately going to reap what they sow - a violent new American Revolution.

Does this Democratic Administration think it can continue to arrogantly DESTROY our economy and lives and lives of our children and grandchildren. I say "hang" tyrants and they soon will get the message.

wuzzagrunt said...

Rule #1: Never give anyone power over you that they promise not to use. Is that too freakin' obvious?

OTOH, maybe we could expand that to cover TV "journalists". They could run disclaimers in the crawl at the bottom of the screen.

Example 1) Ms. Goodbra believes she is far too p[retty to be taken seriously as a jounalist. Her eyeglasses contain plain glass lenses to make her appear smart.

Example 2) Mr. Faketan is auditioning for the job of Communication Director in the Obama Whitehouse.

Example 3) Ms. Pauley and Mr. Phillips know good 'n' damned well that those trucks were rigged w/dynamite to explode.

Example 4) Mr. Rather is out of his fucking mind, and is just making shit up.

TMink said...

Althouse, tell us again why you thought voting for this guy was a good idea?

I am having bumper stickers made that say "Kick Me, I Voted For Him."

I will send you a dozen.


Trey

Jon Sandor said...

the government is getting ready to put a journalism shield law in place. There is certainly some rule-making involved in that.




That's why "government shield laws" are so dangerous. They make the media dependent on the government for its very existence. This is the sort of idea the Soviet Union might have dreamed up. Who really thinks it's a good idea if the state can yank a journalists "license" for any reason?

AJ Lynch said...

FLS:

MSM has a code of ethics? Were you joking?

OT, yesterday, the Louisiana AG reported the ACORN embezzlement 9by one of the founders) was $5 Million versus the previously reported $1 Million! Do you think the MSM will investigate this? Do you wonder when these poor organization cry poor mouth if they are lying?

Jon Sandor said...

Journalists have developed an ethical code that bloggers have not.




Yes, an ethical code which tells them that it is acceptable to lie, either by commssion or omission, in the pursuit of the political lefts agenda.

Seneca the Younger said...

Yeah, I would really like to know how much Rush is paying you to shill for him. I always wondered how much the soul of a law professor was worth. Probably about a $1.99.

Don't be silly, you have to take scarcity into account.

JoeShipman said...

Florida: what you said.

Seneca the Younger: funniest line I've heard in weeks.

Father Martin Fox said...

To some degree, this is a result of some of the distinctions made between "commercial" and "non commercial" speech which to me are dubious and problematic.

But more than anything, my response is, what part of "Congress shall make no law" don't they get?

Old Grouch said...

@Pogo, 10:06

In the future, everyone will be guilty. (stet, FIFY)

AST said...

I'm trying to imagine why the Federal Trade Commission would think that bloggers, 99% of whom do it for a hobby without remuneration, are of such impact on interstate trade that they need watching. All I can come up with is paranoid conspiracy theories.

Bruce Hayden said...

Journalists have developed an ethical code that bloggers have not. I would prefer self-regulation and peer-regulation to government regulation.

You have to be kidding, right?

The only ethical code that I know of when it comes to mainstream journalism is that you have to slant the story as far to the left as they can. If it benefits the right, then bury it. If it involves, corruption, note the party if a Republican, and ignore, if not (and bury it in the middle of the paper).

Not covering important stories? - ok, as long as the story would have benefitted the right. Faking data or photos? Fine if it hurts the right, but not if it harms the left, and, in particular, President Obama.

So, yes, MSM journalism has an ethics code. Arguably though, it isn't an ethics code that benefits the country. But it does benefit the President and the Democratic Party, and that, I suspect, is all that is important.

Come back to us about self-policing when we can see some liberals heads on pikes for failing to speak truth to power (i.e. for calling out the rampant corruption in the Democratic party, Congress, and Administration).

WV: stasi - somehow seems fitting here (The Stasi were the East German State Police - Ministerium für Staatssicherheit).

Jim said...

"Bloggers are a little inconsistent as a group, aren't they?"

Are we surprised? Did you expect people who possess no common affiliation, with the only factor shared being access to the internet, would behave as a monolith? Why is the fact that they disagree on fundamental issues any sort of cudgel to use against the argument that the FTC should not be investigating the truthfulness of claims made by private citizens?

BTW: There should be no shield laws, period. The government has no right to decide who is a journalist, and who is not. The first amendment states that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press. By that, you should not be able to be prosecuted by the federal government for anything you publish. Crimes committed in securing such information should not be exempt from the law. By including criminal protections as a special exemption for privileged persons, freedom of the press is undermined, not strengthened.

Brett Rogers said...

"The press" is a mechanism, not a class of people. Unless you ask a journalist.

submandave said...

The logical dissonence of using promised selective enforcement as a selling point is priceless.

"When was the last time you read an MSM book review or movie review where the review has a freebie disclaimer?"

A more relevent question, Brian, would be when was the last time you read a "news article" that was really just a dressed up press release from a company ro special interest group without a clear disclaimer? The MSM is so notorious for this lazy slight-of-hand that it is common accepted practice these days.

MayBee said...

Why is the fact that they disagree on fundamental issues any sort of cudgel to use against the argument that the FTC should not be investigating the truthfulness of claims made by private citizens?

Sorry, I didn't mean to use it as a cudgel, but just a point of discussion. I completely agree that bloggers (for the most part) are just individuals, acting individually. But that's also why I chuckle at the idea that there are blogging ethics or a way blogs are supposed to be.


BTW: There should be no shield laws, period. The government has no right to decide who is a journalist, and who is not.


I completely agree with your second paragraph.
But keep in mind there are blogs- some with political influence- who are pushing for a shield law that covers them.
We'll see what happens.

Martin said...

Buchanan/Tullock public choice economics!!! A govt bureaucracy creating new missions to enhance its prestige and resources.

Stan said...

FTC -- you don't need to worry about our plans to violate the constitutional rights of the people because we also plan to violate the constitutional rights of the people in other ways, too.

Jason said...

Federal Trade Commission. Mmmm mmm mmm.

Nathan said...

Yeah, 'cause without the FTC, how would I ever tell which blogs to trust for product recommendations? Why, ordinary citizens could be forced to use their own judgment!

This is just an excuse to setup the bureaucratic infrastructure necessary to monitor blogs. Next, they'll be cataloging the words you write in favor of each candidate. More than so many words, and its an in-kind contribution. Outrageous? Yes. Blatantly unconstitutional? Yes. Plausible? Just as yes.

Keith Olberman will no doubt have a Special Comment about how no one person should get to say too much in favor of their cooky ideas.

Nathan said...

Is a blanket disclosure enough for the FTC, or do you have to do the disclosure within the particular post that discusses a freebie product? If a blanket disclosure can do the trick, blogs should coordinate to use standard language that meets the letter of the FTC regulation, but also attacks the FTC for stupidity and hypocrisy. The statement could be in the top corner of all participating blogs. A first draft:

"I have not been compensated by the Ad Council for celebrating diversity. I have not been hired by the National Endowment for the Arts to write tear-jerking or bile raising anecdotes that promote progressive causes. I may occasionally get free products and mention them here, but I know that with my readers, credibility is life."

Too wordy, but maybe someone has a briefer idea.

Too wordy,

Russell said...

"Journalists have developed an ethical code that bloggers have not."

Yep. A major news organization would never put out a historical document on a candidates military record which was clearly and obviously produced in microsoft word. Only bloggers do that sort of thing, and it's fortunate we have the MSM to set up straight.

And last I checked, the Constitution didn't say "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech of anyone with a high standard of ethics as determined by a board officers populated by executive appointment"

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