IAB Labels FTC Blogger Rules Unconstitutional

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has gone into bat on the side of bloggers, calling for the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to withdraw its new rules forcing disclosure of financial relationships on blogs.

The IAB says that the rules “unfairly and unconstitutionally” impose penalties on online media for practices, while exempting traditional media. Randall Rothenberg, the IAB’s president and CEO, says the FTC’s distinction between offline media and online media is “constitutionally dubious” by invoking the First Amendment right to free speech. Release

“What concerns us the most in these revisions is that the Internet, the cheapest, most widely accessible communications medium ever invented, would have less freedom than other media,” said Mr. Rothenberg, “These revisions are punitive to the online world and unfairly distinguish between the same speech, based on the medium in which it is delivered. The practices have long been afforded strong First Amendment protections in traditional media outlets, but the Commission is saying that the same speech deserves fewer Constitutional protections online. 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 the invaluable content and services that have so transformed people’s lives.”

On the subject of review copies, of which “there is a longstanding practice in traditional media of providing products and services to journalists including freelancers, for the purpose of reviews” he writes “They—and we—are not arguing that bloggers and social media be treated differently than incumbent media. After all, most newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television networks, in recognition that Americans are embracing new forms of social communications, have established their own blogs, boards, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and the like. Rather, we’re saying the new conversational media should be accorded the same rights and freedoms as other communications channels.”