At least, that's what the FTC thinks. And they have now set things up so as to save innocent blog readers from falling under the mysterious spell of bloggers who write about . . . wait for it . . . products they use!
(These guidelines have been in the works for a while, and the news about their adoption broke while I was out of town or between trips, and so I didn't have a chance to comment about the topic then. But that's okay. This issue is NOT going away, and so one more slightly belated voice raised in protest can only help our cause.)
If I fail to disclose any relationship I have with a company when writing about a product or service, to protect you, O Reader, from any false sort of persuasion due to my ABSOLUTE AND COMPLETE POWER OVER YOU, I can be fined up to $16,000. AND the company can be fined. And I can be fined if I forget to properly disclose my relationship in the future. If the company or I make false claims about the product, we're in big trouble. If a company makes a false claim and I am not aware of it and review the product, then I am in trouble. If I make something up and falsely review the product, then THEY are in trouble.
I think. I'm not exactly sure what I might be responsible for, even though I have spent some time perusing the guidelines. The problem is, the rules are so unclear that even the FTC Commissioner doesn't ezackly know how they will be applied. From Voices for Reason:
So let’s review. Bloggers must now obey guidelines which are so “complex” that even the FTC doesn’t know exactly what they mean, and will have to decide on a “case-by-case basis.”
But not to worry: the FTC will inevitably “clarify” their rules with a never-ending series of elaborations, definitions, arcane legal distinctions, and arbitrary exceptions, which you will be expected to wade through if you should be so recalcitrant as to discuss books and products online.
The ironic thing is that I have received a free product I'd like to review, and I'm going to very soon so as to
You may refer to me as Sauron if you like. One Blog to Rule them All . . . . Well, I suppose that would be Heather Armstrong, the most
But really, I am POWERFUL, and I really need a (sarcastic) way to express it. Oh, here's an idea! My friend's little boy once came up with the amusingly brilliant (and accurate) portmanteau: Momnisicient. I hereby declare my MOMNIPOTENCE! You may tremble now. Go on. You know you want to.
However, in the interest of full and complete and absolute disclosure, and just so we're all on the same page here, allow me to tell you about a little policy I have on my blog called "Make Up Your Own Mind." Here is generally how things work around Rational Jenn (and indeed, in my 3D life, too):
I think for myself and decide things for myself. Sometimes I get opinions from Brendan or my friends. Sometimes I agree with those opinions; sometimes I do not. I do quite a lot of research when there's a particular topic I'm yearning to learn about. I believe some of the things I read--and don't believe other things.
I think that honesty is a virtue and practice it every day. Here on the blog, and in real life. It's no fun to deliberately deceive people, you see, because that creates stress and mistrust and unhealthy relationships. I value the healthy relationships I have in real life, and I value having healthy e-relationships (we need a new word for this) with those of you who read my blog and take the time to comment or link to me. I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I made a habit of deceitful behavior in my life. I really have no good reason to be dishonest here, or in real life. (There's some rational self-interest for you.)
I use my independent mind and decide what I think about things. And I am honest in my dealings with others. In fact, I highly recommend this as a generally good way to live life. In fact, I feel so strongly about this, that I also have expectations of the people in my life--in 3D life, and yes, here on the blog.
Here's what I expect, dear Reader--that you use your independent mind to decide things for yourself. Oh yes, and be honest, too. I'm sure everyone reading this can agree to that, right? Great.
In the words of a more modern poet, perhaps not quite as illustrious as Shelley:
Do what you want to do
And go where you're going to
Think for yourself
'Cause I won't be there with you.
Or else I'll use my Momnipotence. And trust me, it won't be pretty!
Thanks for reading. And because I just can't stop being sarcastic about these silly guidelines:
This post, and all of my posts, represents my true, honest, independent thinking and has not been unduly or insidiously influenced by anyone else. Also, furthermore, and without further ado, I hereby declare that I expect anyone who stops by this here blog to do his own thinking. THIS MEANS EVERYONE. So, you get to believe me or not, laud or disparage anything you see here as you deem necessary (but I hope that if you need to disparage, you're kind--or at least funny--about it.) Also also wik: I suspect that I'll be linking to this post often, and with great sarcasm, when and if I am in a position to expose the source of my TRULY MOMNIPOTENT POWER over my Readers, in the event I am providing my true and honest and independent opinion about some kind of product or service. So you might see this disclaimer again. Many times.
That is all. I'm sorry this was necessary at all, but don't blame me. Talk to someone at the FTC.