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Should the web world trembling today? The BBC is reporting new law is being introduced to police fake business blogs and that local trading standards officers are going to the the 'corporate blog police'.
Think terms such as 'Sock Puppets' and 'Astroturf', is that what you are? If so you could be finding your way into one of Britain's fine HMP establishments.
Well without meaning to sound offensive, when did trading standards ever actually do anything?
Whenever I have sought the help of trading standards they have been ineffective and toothless. So what they are going to be able to achieve in the anarchy that is the Internet is beyond me.
The ruling (which came into force on 26th May) will tighten up on businesses not planting blogs and bloggers to promote their business? Well is this not just the same as a television commercial? It's all advertising, it's all hype, it's all spin, and we live in a world of spin.
When you are researching a product you have to look at all angles, where there is a postitve there is likely to be a negative. Take Trip Advisor, one travelers heaven is another travelers hell, you can see the good reviews as well as the naff reviews, but you pay your money and you take your chance.
Look at the reviews on Amazon, if a product is that good, it is going to get high reviews, it is easy to sniff out the kippers, unless of course you are so stupid you believe everything you read.
This new legislation is going to make those that practise 'flogging' to go underground and hide their tracks, it will also make floggers push the boundaries harder and further.
It is also fair to say that Trading Standards are a government department which ultimately means they will be under resourced. Perhaps Trading Standards would like to take the UK government to task for failure to deliver rather than a few bloggers simply earning a crust.
I do agree that a site that is set-up to sing the praises of a singular brand or product could be construed as misleading. But, and there is a but.
As buyers we have loyalty, is this law going to stop a fan boy from bigging up his favourite gadget such as an iPhone, PS3 or XBox?
My question is how can Trading Standards police this?
For example, I have both feet in the PS3 camp. I love the machine and who is to stop me from setting up a blog declaring my love for all things Playsation and the games? I would not buy an Xbox if you paid me. (OK, I might be tempted if Bill Gates gave me half his fortune)
I have no loyalty to Sony Playstation other than it floats my boat, so why should I not be allowed to share this experience with others? Is this deemed unnacceptable. Haven't Sony brought me in another way?
Yes, the major difference is Sony would not be paying me for the privelege, but that is the only difference as far as I am concerned. So in my own little way I could be construed as flogging.
If you are going to be stupid enough to have a blogger extolling the virtues of beauty product that does not work, then you expect to be shot down in flames.
Trading Standards will only want the top catches in terms of this practice. This will so the spin-masters will be able to trumpet how super they are, the case that have already been proven include:
Sony, L'oreal and Wal-Mart.
Where does this leave us?
So does this now mean that football supporters are not allowed to praise their clubs? After all there is nothing more tribal than a football supporter and there is no three-dimensional outlook on a football supporters blog, it is one-way traffic. If you support Liverpool you will throw traffic to Liverpool FC, the same if you support Manchester Utd, Brighton or even Dover Town.
It is as one-sided as a blog is ever going to be. Yes I know fan blogs are just that, fan blogs, but they are also completely biased publications fuelled by a passion that no marketing flogger could ever produce. The club though has brought the fans loyalty.
I can see why the law has been brought in, the public rightly needs proptecting from clever marketing, but as with most laws, there are grey areas and it is open to interpretation and manipulation.
See the full post on Will fake business blogs crash and burn? on BBC Business News.