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?