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  • http://twitter.com/croncast kris smith

    Preface: Love the blog, love your posts, long time reader.

    As a publisher I absolutely understand where you are coming from in this post.

    However, whispering at the FTC from a post on your blog does nothing. Your post will be lost in the thousands of posts today, tomorrow and next week that mention the FTC.

    Your rebuke of their process is understandable but totally unwarranted. Have you talked to anyone at the FTC about disclosure or compliance with the guidelines?

    The complaints of publishers against the FTC's guidelines have reached a ridiculous pitch. The people at the FTC aren't unreasonable or unapproachable.

    I met with them at the beginning of November and my business partner met with them again last week. Both times, BOTH – they were asked if anyone else had come to them to better understand the guidelines and propose solutions for bloggers to maintain compliance. Answer: none. And that “none” includes the gentleman from the IAB.

    It is embarrassing to be a part of an industry that does nothing but spit venom about what they perceive as a major problem that will change the way they do business and to see their inaction. It is no wonder those outside our sphere don't take us seriously. We act like entitled brats that dismiss those that are perceived as not understanding how online businesses work.

    If the indignance is so great then why aren't any bloggers or online publishers working with the body that is set to begin regulating their communications instead of running their mouths?

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Kris. I appreciate your frustration with the blogosphere on this—which is why, instead of just bitching about the issue, I tried to (i) be careful to distinguish the issue of first-party disclosures by sites from third-party disclosures by those posting on others' sites and (ii) suggest a spectrum of constructive solutions to the problem. Indeed, I offered my “Trust Seal” proposal as a concrete alternative to proscriptive regulation—which is what “Guides end up being in practice for the long tail of bloggers even though they are, in theory, not directly binding, because most non-lawyers aren't going to do anything more than try to follow them to the letter (if they're even aware of them).

    So, do you have any thoughts on my suggestion or do you just want to complain about how unconstructive the dialogue has been thus far? (Again, I can't blame you for the latter.)

    All that said, there is an important First Amendment issue at stake here, which is what really animates my frustration with the FTC: the pernicious notion that an officially sanctioned “Press” (media establishment) gets special protection for its free speech (not being required to disclose endorsements) while the speech of the mass of citizen-authors is regulated to ensure that it is bias-free.

    The second thing that bothers me is that disclosure innovation such as I'm suggesting isn't even tried. You're right that that's not just the FTC's fault, but my point is that they should be the ones at least calling for such an effort and perhaps convening a workshop to discuss how such a system might work. The FTC has played precisely this role as facilitator of self-regulatory systems in the context of COPPA, where Congress specifically authorized the FTC to certify “Safe Harbor” self-regulatory systems.

  • http://twitter.com/croncast kris smith

    Point well taken. Hopefully, this dialogue can lead to something constructive for us all.

    I released a solution at Blog World Expo back in October. It is nearly all of what you describe for badging, short URL's for twitter and metrics for those that create disclosures.

    Before we released it to the public at this event we reached out to WOMMA, Blog Well and others that were looking for solutions to the newly announced revised guidelines. We had quite a few discussions with these organizations.

    However, we were summarily dismissed by them as they stated that they would be creating their own solutions, best practices and advise their members accordingly. We're still waiting on that one. If we weren't, you would have never written the suggested solution portion of your post.

    A company that did not dismiss us was Associated Content. They implemented our solution for their posts and integrated it into their CMS.

    I am hesitant to mention the name only because I despise pitches. I don't want my comments on this to be confused with a pitch or using this as a marketing opportunity. There is plenty of room for more solutions like the one you propose above.

    But so you know that I'm not talking smack about creating a solution for bloggers – http://mashable.com/2009/10/16/cmp-ly/

    It makes little sense for any of these trade organizations, agencies or groups to sit on their hands and wait until a member or client is taken to task for not being compliant. Being proactive is the only way for us find the best solutions.

    I agree that workshops or other events held by or in conjunction with the FTC could also alleviate future confusion on the revised guidelines and would garner community support.

    I'm also in agreement about First Amendment issues. The revised guidelines are an attempt to address the increasing flow of commercialized speech. This is a much bigger issue than I can speak to with my extremely limited knowledge of the law and First Amendments precedents.

  • http://twitter.com/croncast kris smith

    Preface: Love the blog, love your posts, long time reader.

    As a publisher I absolutely understand where you are coming from in this post.

    However, whispering at the FTC from a post on your blog does nothing. Your post will be lost in the thousands of posts today, tomorrow and next week that mention the FTC.

    Your rebuke of their process is understandable but totally unwarranted. Have you talked to anyone at the FTC about disclosure or compliance with the guidelines?

    The complaints of publishers against the FTC's guidelines have reached a ridiculous pitch. The people at the FTC aren't unreasonable or unapproachable.

    I met with them at the beginning of November and my business partner met with them again last week. Both times, BOTH – they were asked if anyone else had come to them to better understand the guidelines and propose solutions for bloggers to maintain compliance. Answer: none. And that “none” includes the gentleman from the IAB.

    It is embarrassing to be a part of an industry that does nothing but spit venom about what they perceive as a major problem that will change the way they do business and to see their inaction. It is no wonder those outside our sphere don't take us seriously. We act like entitled brats that dismiss those that are perceived as not understanding how online businesses work.

    If the indignance is so great then why aren't any bloggers or online publishers working with the body that is set to begin regulating their communications instead of running their mouths?

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Kris. I appreciate your frustration with the blogosphere on this—which is why, instead of just bitching about the issue, I tried to (i) be careful to distinguish the issue of first-party disclosures by sites from third-party disclosures by those posting on others' sites and (ii) suggest a spectrum of constructive solutions to the problem. Indeed, I offered my “Trust Seal” proposal as a concrete alternative to proscriptive regulation—which is what “Guides end up being in practice for the long tail of bloggers even though they are, in theory, not directly binding, because most non-lawyers aren't going to do anything more than try to follow them to the letter (if they're even aware of them).

    So, do you have any thoughts on my suggestion or do you just want to complain about how unconstructive the dialogue has been thus far? (Again, I can't blame you for the latter.)

    All that said, there is an important First Amendment issue at stake here, which is what really animates my frustration with the FTC: the pernicious notion that an officially sanctioned “Press” (media establishment) gets special protection for its free speech (not being required to disclose endorsements) while the speech of the mass of citizen-authors is regulated to ensure that it is bias-free.

    The second thing that bothers me is that disclosure innovation such as I'm suggesting isn't even tried. You're right that that's not just the FTC's fault, but my point is that they should be the ones at least calling for such an effort and perhaps convening a workshop to discuss how such a system might work. The FTC has played precisely this role as facilitator of self-regulatory systems in the context of COPPA, where Congress specifically authorized the FTC to certify “Safe Harbor” self-regulatory systems.

  • http://twitter.com/croncast kris smith

    Point well taken. Hopefully, this dialogue can lead to something constructive for us all.

    I released a solution at Blog World Expo back in October. It is nearly all of what you describe for badging, short URL's for twitter and metrics for those that create disclosures.

    Before we released it to the public at this event we reached out to WOMMA, Blog Well and others that were looking for solutions to the newly announced revised guidelines. We had quite a few discussions with these organizations.

    However, we were summarily dismissed by them as they stated that they would be creating their own solutions, best practices and advise their members accordingly. We're still waiting on that one. If we weren't, you would have never written the suggested solution portion of your post.

    A company that did not dismiss us was Associated Content. They implemented our solution for their posts and integrated it into their CMS.

    I am hesitant to mention the name only because I despise pitches. I don't want my comments on this to be confused with a pitch or using this as a marketing opportunity. There is plenty of room for more solutions like the one you propose above.

    But so you know that I'm not talking smack about creating a solution for bloggers – http://mashable.com/2009/10/16/cmp-ly/

    It makes little sense for any of these trade organizations, agencies or groups to sit on their hands and wait until a member or client is taken to task for not being compliant. Being proactive is the only way for us find the best solutions.

    I agree that workshops or other events held by or in conjunction with the FTC could also alleviate future confusion on the revised guidelines and would garner community support.

    I'm also in agreement about First Amendment issues. The revised guidelines are an attempt to address the increasing flow of commercialized speech. This is a much bigger issue than I can speak to with my extremely limited knowledge of the law and First Amendments precedents.

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