Paid Bloggers to announce their commercial associations

Bloggers and the law are getting into the news these days.

First, there is news that new disclosure rules may soon be implemented in Singapore. What this means is that bloggers paid to talk about certain products would need to state upfront that they have received payment or perks for blogging about those items.

According to the article Bloggers who get gifts or money may have to own up, MDA feels that “such regulations will protect consumers by enabling them to make an informed assessment about what they read”.

This rule follows upon the recent news from the United States, that from Dec1, “bloggers will have to make ‘clear and conspicuous’ disclosures if, for example, they write a restaurant review after having been treated to a feast there…The penalty for flouting this rule in blogs or postings in Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube: A fine of US$11,000 (S$15,360).”

 With blogs now going very much beyond the personal journal-style blogs found in the days of blog infancy, and taking on a more commercial spin, many companies and individuals are using blogs for marketing and advertising purposes.

Many companies have taken advantage of the more personal appeal of blogs and have approached bloggers to test review their products. While there is nothing wrong with that, things get complicated when the bloggers are paid or presented with gifts for their postings. I mean, it’ll be hard for the bloggers to be objective in their reviews when they were being paid!

Already, a beauty products company in Sinagpore has been suspected of paying a blogger to write highly positive reviews about the products. This is tantamount to fraud as what is ostensibly a personal review is actually a form of paid advertising.

Thus, by making bloggers declare their commercial associations at the start, readers would be more mindful of that when reading the posts and recommendations, and hence make more informed decisions about those products.

Still, I would like to highlight that while there are many paid bloggers out there, and with the disclosure law kicking in, we would know who they are, there are also many passionate bloggers out there who have views and are ready to express them, sans payment from companies.

According to the article Blogger disclosure regulation – who and how to implement it in Singapore?, “the thing now is to draw a clearer line between a paid post and a genuine review or post.”

The next issue makes for interesting irony. Bloggers who give their own personal opinions are getting flak and even threats of legal action for posting their views on their blogs. Recently, some food bloggers have been threatened with law suits for their reviews of certain restaurants that the owners have found to be ‘untasteful’ and ‘unsavoury’. They were asked to take down their posts. This has sparked discussion about the freedom of speech of bloggers and the concept of personal reviews.

As we navigate new areas in cyberspace, laws would need to be adapted or crafted carefully to adapt to the dynamic online public space.

What do you think? To what extent do bloggers or should bloggers have freedom of speech?

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About blogscapes
An intrepid explorer into the the brave new dimensions of the blogosphere and new media landscape.

31 Responses to Paid Bloggers to announce their commercial associations

  1. aslina says:

    i think bloggers who are being paid to advertise products should inform the readers that they are being paid. it would be unfair to the readers if they dont. also it’ll decrese the credibility of their blog and they might lose readers. if the bloggers do come clean about being paid to advertise, the readers can choose to purchase the products instead of leaving the blog.

  2. Joshua Chee says:

    I think it is a good policy to keep. We can check if anyone is accusable of frayd and anything else. I mean, bloggers should at least think of the consequences before writing down posts, agreed??

  3. Haseena says:

    i agree with what aslina has mention. bloggers should have their freedom of speech. because paid bloggers don’t always say the same thing every time. they keep changing according to the payer’s view, which makes the blog not trustworthy.

  4. Grace says:

    I believe Bloggers who get paid to do reviews should be honest and tell readers of it. I mean, it’s bound to be biased to an extent, isn’t it? Telling readers allows them to decide whether or not they believe what the bloggers are writing. Isn’t that a good thing? Better than just losing readers because they think you’re not honest…

  5. Rachel says:

    Yeah, if the bloggers are paid, wheres the ‘freedom’ of speech anymore?

  6. Diana says:

    Well, I am a paid blogger myself, being paid for advertisements posted on my blogs, all I can say is that, the decision ultimately still lies with the consumer.

    Whether a customer chooses to believe is their choice. They are not forced to buy the product.

    We see on televisions, how a really obese lady could lose so much weight in just a couple of weeks. Would we really know if its true?

    How about the word of mouth from our friends? Are they just as reliable? Our friends could be paid to spread or be an ambassadors for the products as well and we might not know it.

    How about the celebrities we adore or idolise? When they review on a product, does their status as celebrity really make their words more reliable? More trustworthy perhaps?

    I beg to differ.

  7. blogscapes says:

    It certainly looks like this issue is quite a controversial one. It involves the issue of objective vs biased content – if a paid blogger can remain objective in his/her review. At the same time, it raises the issue of the educated reader – and Diana pointed out that whatever media we use, we should also exercise some critical thinking when reading/watching something.It becomes more tricky with blogs as we have long associated them with personal, independent reflections, unlike advertisements that are known to be created by companies for the purpose of publicity and promotion. With blogs taking on a different, and perhaps more commercial dimension now, perhaps it’s time for readers to be more informed and discerning as well.

  8. Solokia says:

    It is not a bad idea of posing a fine for people who patronise certain products or places, however it is ridiculous that the fine is so high. Why must people claim their earnings in the first place does this mean that in the near future these people will have to pay income tax too?

  9. Syed says:

    It’s advertising. The advertisements where people say Coke Zero tastes great are freaking liars. They get paid to do it, and it’s on TV. So why the hell not on Blogs?

  10. ashvin and joshua says:

    true true.i agree with you guys.what about those bloggers who dont get paid…what are your thoughts?

  11. Mark says:

    Personally I feel that this issue here should be heavily taken into consideration. I feel that in terms of ‘Freedom of Speech’, it defeats the purpose as it’s somehow bends the opinions provided by the writer. Instead of writing how the particular product or service is, it only advertise and states the pros of it as advertising the way it is.

  12. Audrey says:

    I think it’s right that they should declare they are being paid for advertorials. My concern is that sometimes because they are thinking about earning the money, they may not necessarily like/use the product. Therefore it’s up to the bloggers’ own integrity.

  13. zhenghong says:

    its advertisement. you free to advert on what you want. people have different views on different things. the fine is basically stupid. it is a free world so they have freedom of speech.

  14. Syed says:

    You can’t find out who is lying and who is giving a real review. Good luck with the law actually stopping this problem.

  15. Cindy says:

    I guess that whenever we notice a advertorial post, we should keep in mind that what we read might not be true. The writer would be more biased to write positively. As they’re already paid to do so. I guess, those people who buys the advertorial are people who are too obsessed or fanatic over the blogger.

  16. Min says:

    If the companies paid the bloggers to give false reviews of their products, i think they should have decline the jobs. Because whatever those bloggers earned are through dishonesty.

  17. Jolene says:

    Bloggers are given the right to post whatever they want on their personal blog.
    But when popular bloggers are paid to post comments about a company’s product. The things he says are no longer personal, it could be a comment that the company wanted him to say just to improve the image of the product.
    The blogger should at least indicate somewhere in his blog that he is being paid by the company to do these ‘advertisements’.
    This is fairer to the public. Freedom of speech should be practiced with honesty. Just saying.

  18. weizhong says:

    I think companies are smart to use blogging as a platform to advertise their products. They pay bloggers to endorse their products and this is a new form of advertising; using new media to advertise products and services.

    However this may lead to another issue. Paid bloggers tend to be biased as they will say the good things about those products. They are been paid to write. Therefore their main purpose is to earn some money. These opinions are not their real reviews.

    Ultimately consumers have their right to choose. Whether a customer chooses to believe is their choice. They are not forced to buy the product.

    Paid bloggers are a form of endorsement, just like how TVC ads are accompanied with celebrities who say good things about the products.

  19. Diana Sanchez says:

    I agree that bloggers should indicate that they were paid to advertise because not doing so may mislead consumers. Since they are paid to say good things about the product, it is almost equivalent to a fake testimony.

    Although most believe that bloggers have freedom of speech, there is a limit to it. For example, posting up racist comments or personal attacks cannot be justified by freedom of speech – a lot of people actually go to jail. Hence I feel that new disclosure rules will benefit the majority by drawing a clear line between a paid advertisement and a genuine review. It does not violate the issue of freedom.

  20. Jasmine C. says:

    In my opinion, i feel that bloggers should have freedom of speech to a certain extent. They should not be overboard with their words, but at the same time its definitely important for everyone to have a certain level of freedom or else everything will be pretty much restricted.

    With regards to the disclosure laws, i feel that such laws should be passed so that readers will be informed. By doing so, readers will know that the blogger is representing the product (just like a spokesperson for the company). They can then decide whether they should trust the reviews, or vice versa. In a way, it does serve to protect the readers’ interests.

  21. While it is a good practice to show the “paid” status of the bloggers, it is important to note the very nature of the internet. That is, it is still a wide-open universe where the rules of earth do not fully apply yet.

    (Liek that loozer whose Sex-cond (don’t believe me? watch part 4) Life exceeded the importance of her own life.)

    This is the situation that the cyberspace world faces, there’s a lot of content and authorities are still struggling to catch up. While several people (like the guy from Kapersky) have come forth to suggest “internet passports”, where everyone will have a unique digital ID before they go online.

    That’s contrary to the internet’s biggest draw, the power of anonymity plus the ability to access data for free. While it may provide some sort of security, this would eventually mean the loss of anonymity (which is a good thing, actually).

    A very good case in point: Intel was fined by the EU for illegal businesses practices that prohibited other companies from entering the market successfully. That includes AMD, VIA, what-have-you. Prior to this, the biggest hoo-haa was an online publication called Tom’s hardware, which was found to be guilty of boosting the benchmark results of Intel-based computers over the competition to fool the general public (and yes, they are sponsored by Intel, coincidence? I don’t think so).

    The bottom line is simple: Don’t put blind belief on everything you see on the internet. Apply some logic. Do extra research. Everything will be fine!

  22. Geraldine says:

    I agree that bloggers should reveal when they are paid to do a review, so that readers can see it as a paid advertorial as opposed to a personal review. I believe it is quite impossible for bloggers to give an unbiased review about a product after being paid. Just look at all the advertorials we see on blogs, hardly any negative reviews.

  23. Nadia says:

    Understandably paid bloggers would not want to reveal the fact that they are a paid blogger just so readers would be convinced with their reviews. When readers stumble upon a blog they would not think that the author is paid to post up reviews on a particular product or restaurant, etc. that would result in the reader trusting the author.
    The readers cannot be blamed for trusting the review posted up by the author because naturally people would think that it is a genuine opinion and not an advertisement.

  24. Ivan says:

    I do agree that by not confessing that one is paid to write an advertorial for products is to an extent biased.

    However, I do agree with what Diana has to say. I strongly believe it still voices down to whether or not the reader chooses to believe it themselves.

    Claims regarding products are often far-fetched. An example, laundry detergents, often make commercials showing how effectively they can remove stains and maintain the pristine whiteness.

    If commercials like that are permitted, I do not see the harm if a paid blogger chooses not to disclose the fact that the “post” was done purely because they were paid. Because in the end, the consumers were the ones who decides for themselves.

  25. Jovita says:

    I feel that consumers today are actually very discerning. Whether or not it is stated that these product reviews are paid or personal, consumers will take the skeptical point of view and assume that these reviews by bloggers are paid or that they must have received some sort of benefit.

    However, I do agree with most of the other comments that these bloggers should state whether their reviews are paid or personal for the benefit of transparency for their readers and it is a matter of integrity for the blogger. But at the end of the day, the onus lies in the consumer to make the decision to accept or reject the product review. I’m sure in this present time and age, consumers will be able to make the right decision.

  26. Freedom of reviews says:

    Restaurants should not take offence at blog posts giving negative reviews of their dishes, unless the blog posts have wrong facts.
    For example if a blogger gives the wrong price for a dish he says is expensive, the restaurant can ask for the post to be removed.
    But beyond such mistakes, negative opinions should not be restricted.
    Unless a subject may be sensitive to members of the general public, like religion, opinions about it should not be restricted.

  27. menying says:

    yep, i do agree the measurement that taken, since the network society is to communicate and share sth with others.Everything posted is real and valueble.we should not intend to write the article because of the money or gift that given to us.Otherwise,readers might doubt the reality of the articles and even the reality of the new media society.

  28. Mark Christian says:

    I don’t agree with this law. In my opinion, the bloggers should have the right to say if they are being paid or not. After all, if people buy things, they should always check out other sources first, “Do their homework”, as it were. Bloggers are just one way to see if the product is good.

    I feel that if someone wants to make a truly informed decision, they have to research on the product thoroughly.

    Seems too much like another way for Singapore to make money through unwitting bloggers to me.

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