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Do Celebrity Endorsements on Google+ Require Disclosure? 79

Posted by timothy
from the everyone's-a-critic dept.
theodp writes "According to the FTC, 'celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.' So, would the ringing endorsement of Zeppelin tour operator Airship Ventures that Sergey Brin gave to his 200,000+ Google+ followers last week fall into that category? 'Since getting to know the folks over at airshipventures.com,' posted Brin, 'I have had the pleasure of flying with them several times and this loop in the south bay is arguably the most scenic. I will probably give it another go when they get back to SF in October.' Forbes calls Brin 'an investor in Airship Ventures,' and others have speculated about a possible Google connection."
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Do Celebrity Endorsements on Google+ Require Disclosure?

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  • by discord5 (798235) on Monday September 05, 2011 @03:59PM (#37310386)

    Hoooo boy, I wonder if I can still get on one of those zeppelins now. Damn you Sergey and your foul underhand advertising!

    Oh well, if there's going to be a rush now, I guess I'll just stay home and code a bit.

    • Definition of a celebrity: someone who is famous for being famous. While this is a little overboard in many cases, it is far from applicable to Brin.

      Sergei Brin is known by reputation to those who could not distinguish between a celebrity and a hole in the ground. He is a co-founder of Google and well-known as such, so that makes him a public figure, but by no means a celebrity. Now, do they have similar rules for "public figures", or merely for "celebrities"?

  • by bonch (38532) * on Monday September 05, 2011 @04:00PM (#37310398)

    That Gawker link is pretty interesting. Apparently, Brin isn't afraid of spreading the wealth to privileged friends, who then go on to publicly support Google and Google's products in the media as well as talk about how Google should be "allowed to regulate itself." Even NASA is involved, letting Google's founders park their party jets at Moffett Field "for scientific missions" even though those jets are impractical for such flights.

    • No it's not. Where's the smoking gun? Prove to me the blimp wasn't paid for using legitimate funds. Prove to me that google's planes can't be used for scientific purposes.

      Why the anti-google bent anyway? I mean, your signature implies google is hypocritical because they don't release their secrets and allow scummy advertisers to destroy their search engine. Jealous of their success? Being paid by Mark Zuckerberg? Or did google touch you in your bathing suit area when you were younger? Or did you
      • by bonch (38532) *

        No it's not. Where's the smoking gun? Prove to me the blimp wasn't paid for using legitimate funds.

        You're seriously going to ignore all the financial links between these people? All these people who just so happen to be funding each other and praising each other's products, sometimes without disclosure?

        Prove to me that google's planes can't be used for scientific purposes.

        From the article: "In fact, the Google founders' jets proved impractical for Nasa's science needs; Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schm

        • You're seriously going to ignore all the financial links between these people?

          Yes, because nothing seems to be wrong. What crime is being committed? Google and/or 23 and me paid for an advertisement on a blimp and happened to know the guys operating the blimp... that's somehow bad?

          Pointing out that Google's search engine isn't open source gives me anti-Google bent? What my signature implies is that Google is hypocritical for professing to be an openness advocate when their core product is as closed and proprietary as Microsoft Windows. Hiding its secrets out of fear of advertiser exploitation is the same logic used to defend closed source against security hackers. What happened to the philosophy of "many eyes"?

          A search engine and an operating system are two very different things, thus it's not hypocritical. You're comparing apples to oranges. I suspect you're doing it intentionally, as google's operating system is, in fact, open source. And that's quite disingenuous, google open sourcing their search engine

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            A search engine and an operating system are two very different things, thus it's not hypocritical. You're comparing apples to oranges. I suspect you're doing it intentionally, as google's operating system is, in fact, open source. And that's quite disingenuous, google open sourcing their search engine would in fact break it, unlike an operating system.

            What utter bollocks. Google keeps their search engine closed source so that advertisers can't game it, as Google make their money from advertising. There is no reason why a non-commercial search engine shouldn't be open source.

            Microsoft keep Windows closed source so that they can sell licenses to use it. Google keeps its search engine closed source so they can sell advertising space on it. Doesn't seem much different to me.

        • What my signature implies is that Google is hypocritical for professing to be an openness advocate when their core product is as closed and proprietary as Microsoft Windows.

          What your signature implies is that you don't understand the difference between an OS and a search engine, and between security research and information research.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Apparently, Brin isn't afraid of spreading the wealth to privileged friends, who then go on to publicly support Google and Google's products in the media as well as talk about how Google should be "allowed to regulate itself."

      This is more evidence that in anything resembling "free market capitalism" as corporations grow they will inevitably become evil. The final result of the single-minded quest for increase in shareholder value will always be evil behavior.

      There are no exceptions. If as a society we are

      • by bonch (38532) *

        The first problem with your anti-capitalism rant is that you don't actually explain why there should be encroachment on the free market in this situation. There is already an FTC requirement for disclosure. Beyond that, people are free to fund things, and this submission is just pointing out the links between these companies and the lack of disclosure in some cases.

        The second, and bigger, problem is that you do what many anti-capitalists do--go on and on about some perceived "evil" (a religious term) inhere

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          The first problem with your anti-capitalism rant is that you don't actually explain why there should be encroachment on the free market in this situation. There is already an FTC requirement for disclosure.

          Um, the FTC requirement is an example of such encroachment. The corporations would call that FTC requirement a "job-killing regulation".

          Please give me an example of how you can reign in a monopolistic corporation without government encroachment in the form of regulation.

          And I use "evil" not in a religio

        • by foobsr (693224)

          about some perceived "evil" (a religious term) ...

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil [wikipedia.org]

          It seems to be more complex than that.

          Governments are the biggest, most "evil" corporations of all. Bloated, inefficient, and corrupt, they make the laws and therefore are above them.

          And I thought 'governments' are bought by the 'corporations', and now I learn that 'governments' are above 'corporations'. My whole 'Weltanschauung' is shattered.

          CC.

        • Governments are the biggest, most "evil" corporations of all. Bloated, inefficient, and corrupt, they make the laws and therefore are above them. Even worse, they have no incentive to please the people using their services because, unlike a corporation which must compete for customers in order to survive, you are forced to pay the government at gunpoint.

          Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were actually a rational person. Instead, you're one of "those" "libertarians". Nevermind, carry on. The men in white wil be by shortly. Alternatively, I hear there's a project to build islands just for you. Feel free to go check that out.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          you are forced to pay the government at gunpoint. Think that's hyperbole? Try not paying your taxes or showing up to court and see what happens.

          That's probably because making the payment of tax voluntary has never really worked out too well.

    • Gawker better have some proof. They're the World of the News of Silicon Valley. In the meantime...

      If it's true, the answer is simple: yes, of course they need to disclose it. Actually, it doesn't matter whether you're a celebrity or not. You're supposed to disclose for-profit postings.
      If it's not, there's nothing to say.

      It really all boils down to whether Gawker is making shit up or not.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday September 05, 2011 @04:04PM (#37310422)
    Missing critical information that Sergey Brin isn't really a "celebrity" so much as "google founder." The difference may not be legally relevant, but for fuck's sake, point out in the summary that he's famous for co-founding google, the service he is fucking using to make that "endorsement."

    Also worth pointing out that the "endorsement" is less of an endorsement and more of a "explanation as to how he took the picture and mentioning it was a pleasant experience."

    If CEOs are barred from mentioning online things about companies they've invested in, then that's not a -terrible- abuse of the laws, but it would still be abusive.
    • by bonch (38532) *

      A celebrity can be any VIP or important person, and I'd say that being a co-founder of Google qualifies. I'd also consider Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to be celebrities.

      Also worth pointing out that the "endorsement" is less of an endorsement and more of a "explanation as to how he took the picture and mentioning it was a pleasant experience."

      Praising the service is an endorsement. If you're going to praise it, you should disclose that you're involved with it.

    • by Fex303 (557896)

      Missing critical information that Sergey Brin isn't really a "celebrity" so much as "google founder."

      If you don't know who Sergey Brin is, you're reading the wrong website.

  • I assume that any time some celebrity says they like something, they are doing it for money. Maybe not Sally Struthers, but everyone else. To assume otherwise, seems to me, is foolish. It's their job after all. We all use our skills and specialities at work right? Well, celebrities speciality is notoriety. It's no different really. We all depend on other people's expertise, but the trick is figuring out if the expertise is genuine or being paid for by somebody.
  • Is he a celebrity?

    • he is a geeklebrity. after all, everyone on slashdot knows who he is, he must be famous!!
  • by renegade600 (204461) on Monday September 05, 2011 @04:11PM (#37310490)

    to me, disclosures should only be required if they are getting any type of compensation from the company - directly or indirectly. But then I think the rule should apply to everyone, not just celebrities.

    • by Raenex (947668)

      But then I think the rule should apply to everyone, not just celebrities.

      The law covers consumers, experts, and celebrities -- bloggers included. So whether people think Sergey is a celebrity or not (I do -- even if he's not a household name), his endorsement and financial ties to the company require disclosure under FTC guidelines.

      In my opinion, I am not a lawyer, blah blah.

  • I generally assume that any endorsement has some sort of commercial arrangement behind it. The only exception would be a recommendation from a friend and even those can sometimes be suspect.

    Now, I don't mean to belittle this issue - the clear separation of paid and unpaid content is extremely important - but the stuff in this example doesn't seem that bad. Consider, for comparison, the lack of disclosure involved in political blogs and other online media...

  • I'm a progressive person, regulations don't scare me. But stupid regulations should be killed, and this one seems really stupid to me.

    • How is it stupid? The public has a right to not be misled in advertising, and if someone is being paid to make an endorsement, the public needs to be informed that it's a paid endorsement. It's been that way for decades on TV and radio, and this is merely an extension of the same policy in order to cover social media (which the prior regulations already covered via case law anyway). There's nothing stupid about the regulation itself.

      What I think you may be upset about is the idea that the regulation may app

  • How could Google let someone so important on that deathtrap? Some broad gets on with a staticky sweater and it's "Oh the humanity!"

    • by p0p0 (1841106)
      So kids at birthdays with big sweaters have been in danger for years? Oh the huge manitee!
      (I can't really recall the last large helium explosion).
  • No.

    So, would the ringing endorsement of Zeppelin tour operator Airship Ventures that Sergey Brin gave to his 200,000+ Google+ followers last week fall into that category?

    The simple answer is that there needs to be some form of payment exchanged before you can consider Airship Ventures to be an advertiser, and no disclosure needs to occur if there isn't an advertiser involved. If Brin had a great experience with them and wanted to speak highly of them of his own accord, he's welcome to do so without disclosing anything, regardless of whether or not he had invested in them (though, ethically, it would still be best to disclose your personal interest in a company in a situa

    • by macshit (157376)

      Or, in other words, this was much ado about nothing.

      Or to be more blunt, this story is a (painfully obvious) troll / astroturf / FUD.

      Recently there's been a lot of this on Slashdot; I get the feeling somebody has realized that Slashdot, with its, er, extremely lax editorial standards, and reasonably large readership, is a great place to satisfy his daily quota of anti-Google activity...

  • ...for them to disclose when they're NOT endorsing? Wouldn't that be the more unusual event that should be brought to our attention?

    Surely noone still thinks celebrities are getting up there to extoll the virtues of particular products out of the kindness of their heart, right?!

    People need to adjust their defaults if not

  • from the site http://www.airshipventures.com/about [airshipventures.com] "Specifically, Eureka is a Zeppelin NT. The NT stands for New Technology." Are we sure Microsoft isn't an investor too?

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