FREE SPEECH/FREE PRESS — Want your blog posts—or even tweets—to be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission for sufficient disclosure to consumers?  A reaction to Senator Barbara Boxer's "Call me Senator, please" comment the other day got this libertarian thinking.

It's no secret that I've been angry about how California Senator Barbara Boxer recently chastised Army Brigadier General Michael Walsh for acting in accordance with military protocol and addressing her as "ma'am." When I saw that my friend and business partner Shana Kluck had tweeted something on the topic, I was about to spread the word to my Twitter followers. Then I read this article, one which states that the Federal Trade Commission will probably be regulating disclosure on blogs in the immediate future:

guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible
modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers – as
well as the companies that compensate them – for any false claims or
failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

would be the first time the FTC tries to patrol systematically what
bloggers say and do online. The common practice of posting a graphical
ad or a link to an online retailer – and getting commissions for any
sales from it – would be enough to trigger oversight. […]

Any type of blog could be scrutinized, not just ones that specialize in reviews.

parents keeping blogs to update family members on their child's first
steps technically would fall under the FTC guidelines, though they
likely would have little to worry about unless they accept payments or
free products and write about them.

But they
would need to think twice if, for instance, they praise parenting books
they've just read and include links to buy them at a retailer like Inc. […]

Still, the agency has a
big job ahead as new communications channels continually emerge.
Advertisers now are paying some Twitter users to post short items
through the increasingly popular messaging service. The FTC says the
guidelines would cover such arrangements, regardless of the medium.


no other crime has taken place, lack of proper disclosure is a
political or business issue and no political entity or business chooses
to look bad. Specifically because of it's free-market nature and lack
of regulation, the Internet has done a wonderful job of policing it's
own.  Throw government into the mix and you'll get people who are
hesitant to start new blogs, continue writing at their current
websites, or even update their Facebook status.

situation gets even more ridiculous when one considers microblogging.
Considering that most legal disclaimers are longer than the 140
characters allowed at Twitter, this borders on the absurd. 

Here's how the blogger sees the mandated disclosures operating on his partner's tweet about Senator Boxer.  Remember roadside Burma Shave signs?

TWEET ONE: RT@ ShanaJean Sen. Boxer reminded us that common courtesy is not so common- #tlot #veterans..

TWEET TWO:…Disclosure:
@ShanaJean is my business partner and she has a contract to promote the
book advertised (but not the article she linked to)..

the aforementioned tweet. Because 5% of our firm's gross receipts go
into a common account to pay for common expenditures, I'm…

TWEET FOUR:…receiving
some financial benefit from retweeting her message. If enough people
retweet this, it may even cover the expense of one…

TWEET FIVE:…business card.