On Saturday I was interviewed on ABC24 about the news that Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had said that it is acceptable for celebrities to do paid promotions on Twitter without disclosing their affiliation. This followed the announcement on ABC’s MediaWatch program that celebrity chef Matt Moran, among others, had accepted payment from South Australia’s Tourism Board for tweets.
I was asked why there was any difference with the “cash for comments” furor from 1999 when radio personalities were charged and fined for making on-air endorsements without disclosing payments made by the companies concerned.
There is of course no essential difference. Twitter is media. As attention shifts from traditional channels such as TV, radio, and newspapers to social media, naturally advertisers want to shift their presence to the emerging channels. That is absolutely fine. If advertisers want to use social media to get their messages across, that’s OK – users have many ways to deal with that. However there are clear regulations and norms on advertising in traditional media, where commercials are clearly delineated.
The US Federal Trade Commission has provided detailed endorsement guides, specifically revised to include social media, “because truth in advertising is important in all media – including blogs and social networking sites”.
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