Another great column by the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Crovitz, who is quickly becoming my favorite tech policy columnist. In today’s column, “Bloggers Mugged by Regulators,” he comments on the FTC’s new disclosure rules for bloggers, which I discussed here over the weekend. Crovitz focuses on the enforcement challenges associated with the new rules and also argues that self-regulation should be given a chance to work:
There should be more disclosure, but the Web is different from earlier media in ways that make government regulation less relevant and practical. The Web has its own self-regulatory mechanisms. Failing to disclose interests sullies one’s reputation online, and reputation harm travels faster and lasts longer than it did before the Web.
There’s also greater need for caveat emptor online, because there is no practical way that any government agency can monitor the world’s bloggers and posters. There will always be people who post comments about products and services that are self-serving in one way or another, at least by someone’s definition. [...]
Instead of trying to extend analog-era regulations onto the Web, the FTC should encourage readers to be vigilant about assessing for themselves the independence of sources online. At least we now know the biggest fraudulent claim so far on the Web: It’s been committed by regulators claiming there can be a government stamp of approval on everything anyone posts anywhere on the Web.