Should the FTC Investigate Social Media Spammers?

In light of my recent discovery of the BigFix spam/astroturf campaign I’m starting to wonder if the FTC should/would become involved.

They’ve recently shown concern about these “viral” astroturf campaigns in regards to PayPerPost:

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships.

In a staff opinion issued yesterday, the consumer protection agency weighed in for the first time on the practice. Though no accurate figures exist on how much money advertisers spend on such marketing, it is quickly becoming a preferred method for reaching consumers who are skeptical of other forms of advertising.

Granted, BigFix didn’t compensate these sites but when you spam Digg, Youtube, Yahoo Video, sumo.tv, Reddit, and Delicious you need to disclose that this is part of an advertising campaign.

In fact it’s worse than PayPerPost because BigFix latched onto these sites like a parasite and violated their terms of service in order to push their own agenda. One could argue that Digg was financially hurt by this practice. Granted one or two sites doing this isn’t too big of a problem but if thousands of sites are doing this to Digg it could have a real impact on their revenue model.

Welcome to the brave new world of deceptive ad practices.

This will become more and more common in 2007 and become another clear version of spam that these sites will have to contend with.



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