NEW YORK — The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to withdraw recently issued enforcement guidance regarding the opinions and commentary of bloggers and other participants in social media, saying the rules unfairly and unconstitutionally impose penalties on online media for practices in which offline media have engaged for decades.
In an open letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Randall Rothenberg, the President and CEO of the IAB, called the FTC’s distinction between offline media and online media, “constitutionally dubious.”
In his open letter to the FTC Chairman, Mr. Rothenberg said portions of the “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” would explicitly muzzle online media, while exempting offline media from equivalent scrutiny or penalty.
“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.”