Last week several news outlets, including the Washington Post, ran articles saying the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating Facebook, and a few days later the FTC officially confirmed the reports. Most of the articles said the FTC is looking into how Facebook has been butchering an agreement the FTC reached with the company back in 2011 regarding Facebook’s mis-use of user data back then. If the FTC concludes Facebook ignored the agreement, it could fine the company tens of thousands of dollars for each incident.
First, though, let me make my position clear. I am not a fan of Facebook and have long consider it a digital blight on the world. I do not and never have had a presence on Facebook as I realized, years and years ago, the main function of the company and its main source of revenue is gathering and selling information about people using the social media platform. I have been telling people about my reasoned suspicions for years, too.
Mark my words: there is nothing good about Facebook.
I support, completely, the #DeleteFacebook movement.
I am convinced more and more and more information will be coming out in the next few days, weeks, and years about how Facebook has been collecting and selling information about people and also using that information on behalf of nefarious clients to help persuade and yes, even deceive, Facebook users.
We have only glimpsed, so far, the top of the tip of the iceberg on what has been going on with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica (CA), and this is only one of Facebook’s clients of this ilk.
Back to the FTC: I believe the FTC will also come to the conclusion Facebook has been involved in deceptive advertising practices, and once it does, I hope the agency takes considerable legal action against Facebook.
In January 2016 we published an article in the Digital Marketing Report newsletter about the FTC’s warning for advertisers and publishers about deceptive online advertising. Did Facebook deliberately provide advertising disguised as content to certain Facebook users on behalf of certain nefarious operators such as CA and perhaps the NRA? I am sure the FTC wants to know the answer to this question!
Here is the lead-in to our article:
The FTC Issues Deceptive Advertising Warning and Native Advertising Guide
On December 22, 2015 the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an enforcement policy statement explaining how the consumer protection principles the FTC has established and enforced for decades apply to different advertising formats—including native ads which look like surrounding non-advertising content. While the FTC statement did not point the finger of blame only at digital advertising, the agency did make sure comments about such advertising were mentioned early and often in the statement.
The agency made it clear in the press release announcing the statement its long-standing policies apply to digital media, “The FTC’s policy applies time-tested truth-in-advertising principles to modern media,”said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “People browsing the Web, using social media, or watching videos have a right to know if they are seeing editorial content or an ad.”
The same day the FTC released the Enforcement Policy Statement, it issued a much shorter statement entitled Native Advertising: A Guide for Business. This guide, the FTC says, was written and released “to help companies understand, and comply with, the policy statement in the context of native advertising.
The business guidance gives examples of when disclosures are necessary to prevent deception and FTC staff guidance on how to make clear and prominent disclosures within the format of native ads.”
I have placed JPEGs of each page of the article below. This article is relevant and important information regarding a significant line of inquiry the FTC should undertake, if it has not already, regarding Facebook.