Stupid Bureaucrats

An oxymoron, I know. I was watching one of my favorite shows, The Unit, today and one of the characters said something to the effect of ‘bureaucrats won’t leave a meeting until no one is happy.’  I saw Tobold and Syp talk about the upcoming FTC changes that will affect bloggers that choose to review products, when the reviews are endorsed.  “Endorsement” is the key word to the whole scenario, and while the FTC tries to muddy the waters with their examples, it sounds bigger than it is.

An “endorsement” that runs afoul of the FTC requires an undisclosed material connection, where the material connection caused the speech.  In other words, if an unsolicited copy of a game shows up on my doorstep, and I choose to review it, I am not necessarily endorsing the game according to the FTC (see footnote 21).  Now if the game company kept sending me unsolicited games, and I kept reviewing them… well there might be grounds for that material connection.  If the game company said they would send me a free copy if I review it, then I would be endorsing it, according to the FTC, even if my review was a scalding 2/10.

Blogging is based on trust.  I don’t read blogs very often from bloggers whose quality of thoughts seem bought.   Now, I agree that a blogger should disclose a review in exchange for free product, but I think the FTC is pretty stupid to make that required.  They really don’t have anything else to do with their time than monitor blogs?  Glad my tax dollars are hard at work trying to chill free speech on the internet of all places.

–Ravious
the death of all sound work

11 thoughts on “Stupid Bureaucrats”

  1. Quibble: “Stupid Bureaucrats” isn’t a slam-dunk oxymoron. Calling it an oxymoron would imply that bureaucrats are inherently the opposite of “stupid”. The popular perception of bureaucrats is far more that they are hide-bound and inflexible, and neither trait is normally a signifier of intelligence. Depends on your pre-existing opinion of bureaucrats, I suppose. It’s no “Military intelligence” or “Microsoft Works”, at least. ;)

  2. Bah. Just a lot of people trying to justify their jobs.

    That’s probably a good definition of any political body like congress or parliament.

    There are so many laws out there that already deal with issues like fraud. I have to question why we actually need any more. And if the existing laws do cover everything now, then why do we need new ones, and perhaps more importantly. If we don’t really need new laws, the we don’t really need lawmakers.

    So maybe that’s why the bureaucrats keep enacting silly new laws like this one.

    To make them feel needed.

  3. In other words, if an unsolicited copy of a game shows up on my doorstep, and I choose to review it, I am not necessarily endorsing the game according to the FTC (see footnote 21).

    Are you willing to gamble an $11,000 fine on that basis? If you get prosecuted, you’ll have at least $11,000 in legal fees anyway, moot point unless someone takes the case pro bono.

    Then again, I disclose that I get useless Kongregate points, so I’m not terribly worried at the moment.

  4. They are not stupid, but rather there is a fundamental disbelief in the core principles of Liberty, that we are better off if government stays out of our lives. Protection and fraud prevention are excuses they use. Here is our road paved with good intentions leading to unintended consequences.

    It might not affect more professional bloggers who disclose everything, it will affect the average kid using social networking sites. If someone doesn’t believe that just look at the ridiculous RIAA suits. Sony will sure as hell be out there suing over every good review of competing games. I’m about to pick up the book “3 felonies a day” once I’m done with my current book which is somewhat related.

    The internet is uncontrolled and they feel they HAVE to control it for our own good. Every year it gets worse. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in some bizarro world. My friends just the other day were telling me how the average american is too stupid and we need more controls over our lives. I just … am speechless.

    1. Really good point. This really reminds me of the other stupid garage-sale law on second-hand kids toys or whatever. This makes me so irate, so I apologize for my harsh tones… what makes it worse is that FTC believes that we should all assume that magazines, TV shows, etc. that review products have this endorsement from the manufacturer, which is a stupid assumption, but then we should all assume that bloggers normally have no relationship. GAH!

      1. That’s another key problem. It’s not about a blanket principle of fairness, it’s about control. In this case, it’s another handle that Big Brother can use to manipulate the internet. Free speech is a danger to the establishment, which is why it’s the First Amendment… and constantly under attack.

  5. This really isn’t that big of a deal. According to what I have heard the FTC really aren’t looking to prosecute or even influence bloggers. The intention here is more to force the companies who do supply the game or product to the blogger to require the blogger to disclose that fact.

    As a blogger who has not and probably never will receive any kind of compensation from any company I don’t really mind the idea. Even if I did I wouldn’t mind being asked by the company supplying the compensation or item to disclose that fact. I could always simply decline the compensation offered.

    Also I think the phrase “stupid bureaucrats” is redundant, not an oxymoron.

    1. Here’s what could happen. Big Game Company sends product to bloggers so that the blogger will review it. With all of their advertising across the globe, Big BGC forgets to tell the FTC they did this. FTC starts and investigation against BGC demanding the names/sites of the bloggers. FTC does a quick search and sees that a few bloggers did review the game without mention they got a free copy. That’s low hanging fruit, RIAA-style (as Yunk mentioned). They already have the evidence, they have the real names and addresses. All they need is a demand letter.

  6. This stuff is hilarious. As if bloggers would be institutions. Some are very influential indeed, but still…

    I thought and think bloggers can write whatever they want, and would not have to worry about their opinion and maybe even getting persecuted unless they really violate laws, which is almost impossible, actually.

    Leave it to the blogger and his readers to decide if he lets himself get bribed by a company through a free beta key or other freebies! And let his readers decide if they want to trust everything the blogger writes.

    The idea that law forces me to tell you that my subjective opinion might be influenced by freebies is really really dumb. I write book reviews occasionally, sometimes I buy the book myself, sometimes I get it from the publisher. I do not have to tell people if I got a freebie or not.

    This is so hard to enforce and such a stupid idea, I think it is even against personal freedom of speech and all that. Leave such things up to the blogger to decide. The FTC must try harder to explain why this bullcrap could ever be a law at all.

  7. Here is a better argument against it than I am capable of. The part that bugs me is they are singling out one form of communication, and to boot going after people who do not have tons of money to defend themselves. This is actually the problem with all regulation – it often helps protect entrenched and larger businesses. It makes me wonder if the FTC came up with this idea on its own. Usually someone is lobbying for sweeping regulation changes. Who would be doing the lobbying in this case? Consumer groups? Or “old media” who don’t have to make these disclosures by regulation (but many do as a best practice).

    http://paullevinson.blogspot.com/2009/10/ftc-wrong-to-regulate-deceitful.html

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