How an FTC Decision Could Impact Gaming News

How an FTC Decision Could Impact Gaming News

by October 6, 2009

FTC_LOGOReviewers of All Kinds May Have to Disclose Connections

A comment was left on our website that read, in response to a previously published story, “Write seven pages about laws that matter.”

Seven pages can’t be promised in this topic, but we would like to entertain that request, as a ruling yesterday–not a law–has potential to impact several gaming news sites and those who do game reviews, including this site.

The ruling involves the US Federal Trade Commission. Yesterday, according to GamePolitics, a unanimous decision found that “material connections” between advertisers and endorsers “must be disclosed.” The language is pretty broad, but its reach is just as broad, as the new FTC policy will apply to, among other outlets, bloggers and Internet news sources. That is a very wide net to cast.

Here’s more specifics on what is expected by the FTC, particularly when it comes to reviewing products:

[The new rules] address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

In short, many gaming news outlets who receive gifts or free products–and in turn, review those products or games from that company–may now be required to disclose that reception when it comes time to write the review or article. Otherwise, news outlets risk an FTC investigation.

The language isn’t crystal clear. But if it holds, some of the biggest names in gaming media, both mainstream and independent, may have to tweak their review practices, at least in the United States. As the FTC is a US government body, it has no jurisdiction in other countries. So, for example, while TSSZ News staff is based internationally, its primary operations lay in the United States, where this policy is in effect. A website based in Britain, such as The Sonic Stadium, would not have to participate in these disclosures.

We are not waiting for clarification. Because of this ruling, it is now the policy of TSSZ News to disclose to you, our readers, whenever our staff receives a free copy of a game for review by it’s creators, be it a console game or even a fan title. We will also be telling you when we receive any gifts from companies or individuals whose specific products we write about. The disclosure will be cited in articles as necessary. As an example, if we receive a free copy of a console game for review, the author will tell you in that specific review. In some cases, disclosures may be necessary in news articles.