Do FTC disclosure regulations affect user-generated content?
Hi Dave. Do you have any advice for a Web site that's primarily user generated content, some of which has affiliate links embedded? Do I need to highlight each and every link or can I use a blanket disclaimer to meet the FTC web disclosure guidelines?
I would say you're on the right track thinking about a blanket disclaimer, actually.
The intent of the FTC's recent disclosure requirement "clarification" is to remind us online folk that if your content includes affiliate links or if you got stuff for free or are being paid to blog about it, that you need to disclose that so that the consumer can (ostensibly) make an educated decision about whether to proceed.
Quite reasonable and actually a best practice anyway.
So I would think (caveat: I'm not a lawyer!) that a disclaimer at the bottom of the page would suffice:
"Disclaimer: This site includes extensive user generated content, some of which may include affiliate links or be about the author's own products or services. We cannot investigate and properly identify each link in each entry, so the consumer is hereby notified that these sort of connections may appear on material found on this site."
Something like that. You might just have your lawyer craft something in that vein if you're really concerned you could get in trouble.
I went down that road too: The disclaimers on my sites are written by my lawyer.
As an example, the following disclaimer lives on the bottom of every page on this very weblog:
"Note: This web site is for the purpose of disseminating information for educational purposes, free of charge, for the benefit of all visitors. We take great care to provide quality information. However, we do not guarantee, and accept no legal liability whatsoever arising from or connected to, the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained on this web site or on any linked site."
Will it protect me from spurious lawsuits? I hope so. So far (knock on e-wood) I haven't had to find out...
Hope that's helpful!
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