In case you thought that you had grown up enough that you don’t have to be treated like a three-year old anymore, we have depressing news for you:
Your government thinks you haven’t.
The clucking nannies at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have ruled that Tweets must contain “the fine print,” Shira Ovide and Danny Yadron of the Wall Street Journal report:
Whether it is including the average effectiveness of a weight-loss shake or noting that a celebrity was paid to push a product in a Twitter post, marketing firms need to apply the same standards to online ads as they long have to older media, according to guidelines released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission.
The new guidelines are important because they suggest the grounds on which the agency might open an investigation. The report expands the FTC’s more than decade-old rules on Web ads to the world of social media and smartphones. The commission doesn’t handle criminal investigations but can issue civil penalties if it finds misleading advertising.
The regulators defended this absurdity by saying that some befuddled consumers might go straight from Twitter to the store and therefore might not learn that they had just been brainwashed.
If you’ve ever listened to a radio ad or seen the Viagra-spot warnings about erections lasting more than six hours, you’ll know that the fine print usually takes up more than 140 characters.
So you might think that the silver lining is that companies won’t be Tweeting at you much anymore.
They’ve already figured out how to do the fine print in tweets:
Disclosures must be clear enough that they aren’t “misleading a significant minority of reasonable consumers,” the FTC said. Marketers could flag Twitter ads by including “Ad:” (three characters) at the beginning of the post or the word “sponsored” (nine characters).
Twitter has found ways to incorporate disclosure requirements into short Twitter ads. In 140-character ads for political candidates or other direct political ads, Twitter designates them with a purple box and when a user hovers his mouse over the box, it shows a disclosure about who paid for the ad. That setup is intended to hew to requirements of the Federal Election Commission.
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