Watch out for fake news outlets on the web.
Take Tom Chilton’s news story, “Millions of people without jobs, but no worries, working at home is the way to go.” There is a picture of “Tom” and his address: Tom Chilton@www.Financial-Weekly.com | www.Financial-Weekly.com Staff Reporter.
The fake news web page even identifies itself as what seems to be a real newspaper– the “Los Angeles Tribune.” URL? http://www.LosAngeles-Tribunes.com/finance/. The site even mimics a comments section (disabled, of course).
The point of all this is to give the false appearance that a media outlet, legitimate writer and commenters are endorsing a product. This trickery, like its brothers and sisters before it (undisclosed infomercials and advertorials) is clearly against Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines. Ads can not be falsely presented as “news” as it is deceptive and misleading.
The FTC has a detailed web site for further reading and filing complaints , “Screening Advertisements: A Guide for The Media.”
UPDATE: 09/20/09: I just saw a new version of Tom’s “news story.” It now places a disclosure label at the top of the page that states: “Advertisement.” This is a weak attempt to make this deceptive ad Kosher. However, the supposed disclosure is hardly noticeable in the context of the ad–which is the criteria FTC judges compliance. This ad still fails FTC guidelines despite token design change.