EU cracks down on fake blogs

In 2005, the European Union published a Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices that, among other things, outlines “sharp practices” which will be prohibited throughout the EU, such as pressure selling, misleading marketing and unfair advertising.

The Directive is due to become part of EU members’ national laws in early 2008. Social media channels such as blogs – and fake blogs in particular – are included, according to The Register:

[…] Covert commercial blogging – or flogging – will soon be banned by Brussels.

Under laws due to come into force at the beginning of next year, but likely to be delayed until April for the UK, companies posing as consumers on fake blogs, providing fake testimonies on consumer rating websites such as TripAdvisor, or writing fake book reviews on Amazon risk criminal or civil liability.

[…] Not only will it impose a general ban on unfair practices, but it will also include two main categories of unfair commercial practice: misleading practices and aggressive practices. Whether a commercial practice is unfair will be assessed in light of the effect it has, or is likely to have, on the average consumer’s decision to buy.

The directive catches all commercial organisations – big or small – and the upshot is that companies (including sole traders) will no longer be able to pay individual bloggers or professional agencies to post false or misleading blogs or reviews online. Nor will they be able to do it themselves.

A step forward for ethics and transparency? It looks like it, certainly. Whether the Directive will actually have any teeth in individual EU member states remains to be seen.

See also – anti-astroturfing resources at The New PR Wiki.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. - links for 2007-11-06

    […] EU cracks down on fake blogs : “2005 EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices prohibits pressure selling, misleading marketing and unfair advertising. Will become part of EU members’ national laws in early 2008. Social media channels such as blogs, esp. fake blogs, are included.” (tags: Europe ethics law blogs marketing business nefarious problems government) […]

  2. David

    This is a great idea — I wish they started implementing laws like this in the US, although it will probably happen in several years when the web becomes completely littered with fake blogs.

  3. Niall Cook

    Whilst I applaud the spirit of this, I think The Register has taken a bit of poetic license here (shurely not?). Having reviewed the text of the Directive, the only section relevant is the Appendix of “non-exhaustive” misleading advertising practices:

    “Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.”

    Nowhere in the Directive are mentions of any of the specific practices that The Register says will be outlawed.

    Using this definition, I doubt much will change unless an advertiser is specifically using a blog to represent itself as a consumer. I also doubt whether it would disallow companies from paying third parties to spread word of mouth in the ways the article suggests.

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