Bloggers, posters required to say if article was paid

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Bloggers, posters required to say if article was paid

A person who writes an article about a product that was solicited by a company must now clearly say that they are doing so in exchange for economic benefits if the article is publicized via portal sites, blogs or social network services, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said.

Kim Ho-tae, a director of the FTC consumer safety & information division, said yesterday that the FTC changed the guidelines on Wednesday to instate the new rule.

According to Kim, the previous guidelines, drafted in July 2011, said that if an article is written favorably reviewing a product or service on media such as blogs, Naver, Facebook or Twitter, the author was only required to say that they received “sponsorship” or “assistance.”

Writers were also allowed to say only that the article was “associated with” the company selling the item it promoted, or to say that the article is based on “experiencing” a product. The FTC said in a statement that those wordings are too ambiguous and do not inform readers of the subjectivity of the article.

“It is the equivalent of a deceptive advertisement because it conceals facts that could have an important effect on consumers’ purchasing choices,” the statement said.

Under the new guidelines, the author of a post must identify which company gave him or her the economic benefit and which specific product in the article they were paid to promote.

The kind of economic benefit they were given must also be specified - whether it be cash, a gift certificate, commission for each product sold, or the product itself.

The writer has to put the disclosure at the beginning or the end of the article to make it easy for the reader to notice. The FTC ruled that the font size should be bigger than the other contents on the page and should be marked in a different color.

If the FTC finds a promotional article online that does not have a disclosure, it can order the advertiser to correct it or can impose a fine of up to 2 percent of the revenue the advertising company receives from sales of the goods. If the advertisers don’t comply with the order, a criminal charge can be filed against them, the FTC said.

However, the writers are exempt from any punitive action.

“There is no solid ground on which we could consider the blogger a business person, so we decided to hold the advertisers responsible,” Kim said. He added that if an online author is found to be repeatedly writing promotional articles, the FTC could revise the guidelines to punish the author.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]




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