Okay, maybe IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg didn’t paraphrase former President Ronald Reagan’s famous declaration about the Berlin Wall, but the outrage expressed in his open letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Jon Leibovitz over recently released guidelines related to blogger disclosure was certainly of the same tenor. Terms such as “constitutionally dubious” and “Orwellian” are not tossed about lightly.
Opening with a humorous and informal anecdote, Rothenberg personalizes the confusion felt by 22 million bloggers and 40 million Americans writing opinions about products on social media sites on reading the unclear proposed rules released by the FTC last week. He expressed particular concern over footnotes and asides in the guidelines that suggest individuals who express opinions in digital media have less protection of speech than traditional media outlets.
“I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide their invaluable content and services,” Rothenberg writes.
With its tone that alternates between conversational and legal, the letter is symbolic of the gray area of Internet media in general and offers a powerful rebuttal to the FTC’s hamfisted attempt at offering guidance. There has been much controversy online over these guidelines, including a spat over a now debunked $11,000 fine for bloggers in violation.