Bloggers don’t need more rules. They need a conscience
Jessica Valenti writing in “Comment is Free” on the Guardian’s increasingly dense and complex web page (I did not know before this that there was a cif America)
She is, apparently, a “professional blogger” concerned about
The US regulator, the Federal Trade Commission, has released guidelines this week that would require bloggers – and even people using Twitter and Facebook – to disclose relationships they have with companies or advertisers, as well as any free products or payments they have received. Not doing so could result in fines of up to $11,000.
Of course the US regulator can’t touch me – yet – although the Marc Emery case sets a worrying precedent – but I thought it was worth noting. For one thing it explained to me what all that “Nestle Family” stuff on twitter was all about. And that, it seems to me, was a welcome development. But, for the record, I am not a “professional blogger”. I earn nothing from this blog. Like all wordpress.com sites (except a few VIP sites that do not carry that designation) no advertising is allowed. But equally no-one has ever offered me any incentive to cover anything. I chose what to write about. People do send me press releases: few get on here except those that meet my definition of what this blog is about, and which might well get ignored by other media.
I was sent a book once, which I did review, I think objectively. It was certainly not an endorsement. I did not send it back, because most book reviewers don’t. And anyway they did not include a pre-paid label in their package, so it would have cost me money to return it. The blog has caught the attention of one or two people who have offered me a paid gig – not nearly enough of them – and that is far less than the negative effect of prospective employers using the fact that I have a blog at all as a reason for not employing me. Not because what I have written, but because of what I might write. It is a bit like being found guilty of intended rape because you are carrying the right equipment around with you.
I do also respond to people who write to me and ask me to promote their products. And tell them clearly that I will not promote their product or anyone else’s. I will talk about products that impact my sphere – although I can’t think of any recently, other than Cubic ticket machines, and I doubt they liked what they read – if they did.
I hold my opinions based mostly on my experience, but probably on a few prejudices and personal preferences too. But I am not for sale. Never have been, never will be.