Is Blogging Commercial Speech?

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Here’s a little brain-teaser for you.  Not too long ago, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued regulations saying that bloggers who get into product promotion have to tell us if they got compensated for doing so. How does that ruling affect the free speech rights of the bloggers?

I’m going to do some research as part of the class I’m taking — Law of Advertising and Public Relations — and after I turn in the paper (and get a grade on it) I’ll return to this topic. I found a really interesting article in the American Business Law Journal that explores this topic, mostly from the perspective of the company and its own blogs, but the discussion on what constitutes commercial speech is rich indeed. And, it offers a lot of other articles and legal opinions that will help my research immensely.

But, in the meantime, what’s your view?  Is a product review paid for by the company commercial speech, or individual speech not subject to the FTC’s rules?



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2 Responses to “Is Blogging Commercial Speech?”

  1. Hi Sean, I think the issue of FTC rules is dangerous ground and raises serious concerns around whether they should even be in a position to make rules about what a blogger should or should not say.

    The principle for me, however, is that in the interests of transparency and authenticity, bloggers should automatically declare their product/comany allegiance. The onus should rest on the blogger. After all the corporate landscape is littered with the debris of brands who try hide behind this sort of campaign without declaring it up front.

  2. sean says:

    Craig, thanks for the comment. This is a key point. We learned (I hope) from the Edelman MSFT laptop debacle (and from the Walmart flog…hmmm) that the space demands transparency. Without it… I fear the heavy hand of Govt over caveat emptor… But, I have more reading to do!
    Cheers – and thx again.