Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hey there, First Amendment!

How are you feeling this week? Weak, you say? Somewhat undermined?

Let's see what Jeff Jarvis has to say about this idea that the FTC should start regulating what bloggers have to say.

The Federal Trade Commission just released rules to regulate product endorsements not just in advertisements but also on blogs. (PDF here; the regs don’t start until page 55.)

It is a monument to unintended consequence, hidden dangers, and dangerous assumptions.

Mind you, I hate one of its apparent targets: Pay Per Post and its ilk, which attempt to co-opt the voice of bloggers. But I hate government regulation of speech more.

And mind you, I am all in favor of transparency; I disclose to a comic fault here. I think that openness is the best fix for questions of trust and advise companies and politicians and certainly governments to become transparent by default as enlightened self-interest. But mandating this for anyone who dares speak online? Foolish.

There are so many bad assumptions inherent in the FTC’s rules.

First, Pay Per Post et al, as I realized late to the game, are not aimed at fooling consumers. Who would read the boring, sycophantic drivel its people write? No, they are aimed at fooling Google and its algorithms. It’s human spam. And it’s Google’s job to regulate that.

Second, the FTC assumes – as media people do – that the internet is a medium. It’s not. It’s a place where people talk. Most people who blog, as Pew found in a survey a few years ago, don’t think they are doing anything remotely connected to journalism. I imagine that virtually no one on Facebook thinks they’re making media. They’re connecting. They’re talking. So for the FTC to go after bloggers and social media – as they explicitly do – is the same as sending a government goon into Denny’s to listen to the conversations in the corner booth and demand that you disclose that your Uncle Vinnie owns the pizzeria whose product you just endorsed.

Insanity and inanity. And danger.

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger, Hector Owen! Danger, Glenn Reynolds, and everybody else.

It's not just bloggers, either: This will also apply to Facebook pages and even Twitter.

All this unregulated speech is a danger to someone who would rather it were silenced. Didn't you ever think to yourself, "How long will 'they' let this go on? All this freedom of speech on the Internet?" Lefties have their hands on the levers of power in Washington, now. So hold on to your hats, and think about scrubbing your archives. Like this, see: Acorn Scrubs Its Website to Eliminate SEIU Links. <sarcasm>That worked really well for them.</sarcasm> So don't imagine it will work any better for you, Miss Blogger Grrl, Mister Blogman.

Here earlier: Federal Marshals will be coming in to clean up this town. Or, Yes we can stop the signal. A recent comment here.


Trooper York said...

Hey they will get the breasts I blog about when they take them out of my cold dead fingers. And not a moment sooner.

Trooper York said...

I must already be on a bunch of lists. My Tyler Perry's White House of Pain has to be good for a couple of years in a reeducation camp all by it's ownself.