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Cliff Jones, a law professor at the University of Florida and a friend, sent me this link about the recent Federal Election Commission ruling that bloggers do not have to disclose campaign-paid endorsements on their blogs:

Bloggers will not have to disclose election-related payments they receive, nor will they have to post disclaimers about such payments. In essence, the six federal election commissioners voted unanimously to preserve free speech online, at least to the extent the court would allow.

This is a big deal in the wake of recent stories that the Lincoln Group paid for pro-military coverage in Arabic language newspapers on behalf of their client (DoD) and more specifically the pay for exposure coverage the Dean campaign forked over during the 2004 presidential primaries.

While I have often been accused of being a bit “Pollyanna-ish,” I still contend that if a blogger is paid to post something for a campaign or candidate then his or her readers will see right through it. The blogger will be found out — as the blog for Dean & get $3k per month bloggers did.

As a result, the bloggers will lose credibility. In a tool governed by credible, street props & links – you are indeed only as good as your content.

I’m the first one to say that PR people should reach out to bloggers in an attempt to communicate a message. My colleague Lance Porter, who has done a great deal of work on the professional use of the Web by PR practitioners, would say that blogs allow PR practitioners the ability to “laser target” a specific audience that may be smaller, but more engaged & interested in the message. That said, I am a proponent of letting the facts & content speak for itself, not letting the Benjamins do the talking, when pitching items to bloggers.

So I’m glad the FEC ruled in bloggers’ favor – we don’t need government telling us what to write anyway. In case you haven’t noticed – blog readers are pretty harsh when crossed & self-governing as is.

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