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Understanding new social media guidelines from the FTC Dot Com Disclosures

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a long-awaited update to its 2000 Dot Com Disclosures guide, taking into consideration the new online mediums for advertisers, specifically social media. The basic fundamentals of the consumer protection rules for advertisements remain the same, even for social media: advertisements must be truthful, not misleading, and proper disclosures made.

How do these guidelines apply to social media?

There are several important implications for advertisers to consider. First and foremost, the guidelines state that clear and conspicuous disclosures must be posted to avoid deception. If space is limited for the medium (i.e. Twitter) then the ad should be modified or not be made. Secondly, guidelines need to avoid using hyperlinks, but when necessary, they must be clearly marked. Finally, regardless of space constraints, advertisers are required to include disclosures alongside their ads.

Guidelines for posting disclosures

This is an example of a hidden disclosure with an unmarked hyperlink:

Example of a Facebook Page post not following FTC guidance.

If following proper practice, a brand should display its social media advertising disclosures prominently and in close proximity to the claim:

Example of a Facebook advertisement following FTC guidance.

Guidelines for hyperlinks and scrolling

If a hyperlink is necessary, then make sure it is specifically named and conspicuously placed. For example, in this tweet, the celebrity endorsing this product has clearly stated that they are a spokesperson for the product and that the pertinent information associated with the tweet can be found in the corresponding Bit.ly hyperlink:

@FamousCeleb: I’m a spokesperson for BarLite and it changed my life. More information: Bit.ly/BarLite #liteonlife

In the case of a long text, make sure the disclosure is visible near the claim. If the claim must be placed below a long screen of text, be sure to hyperlink the claim or disclosure within the text at the top of the screen.

Guidelines for pop-up disclosures

Pop-up disclosures are best when the disclosure is displayed before the decision to purchase is made.

For example, within the shopping cart experience on the advertiser’s website, the customer must be prompted to read the disclosure and confirm they have done so.

Ultimately, the advertiser needs to do everything they can to ensure that the consumer is aware of and has read all of the necessary disclosures associated with the product.

Disclaimer: The material available on this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. We make no guarantees on the accuracy of the information provided herein.

Yasmin Zarabi

Yasmin is responsible for Hearsay's legal affairs including commercial, compliance, regulatory and privacy matters. She is a thought leader in compliance for financial services, has been published in industry press and speaks at events around the world.

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