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Glenn Halbrooks

FTC Wants a Halt on Some News Web Sites It Says Are Fake

By April 21, 2011

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is asking the federal court system to put a stop to several news websites that it says are fake. The FTC is using an example of one site that it says is meant to look like a news endorsement for acai berry weight-loss products.

A photo of a woman's hands on a computer keyboard
The FTC wants to stop what it calls fake news websites from endorsing weight-loss products.
Photo © Daisuke Morita / Getty Images
The FTC says the sites often look like a TV station's website and contain the logos of the major networks or other familiar news organizations. The FTC wants the courts to stop what it calls the deceptive claims of 10 companies and allow customers to get refunds for the products they bought.

Advertisements that look like news reports are nothing new. You may have local commercials running in your city right now that feature a person acting as a news anchor reading breaking news that prices on quality tires have reached historic new lows, or something similar.

The questions that should be answered by someone -- the FTC, the courts or the Federal Communications Commission -- is whether these types of ads have become so slick that they must be stopped. Others would say that in all advertising, it's a case of buyer beware so there's nothing wrong with using techniques to similate a news endorsement.

The practice is popular because wrapping a product with something that looks like a news endorsement builds credibility. But most media experts know the dangers of blending news with sales.

The problem is, the audience doesn't know that same danger. People see a logo that looks like it's from a TV station or newspaper, a person who looks like a reporter or someone sitting behind what appears to be an anchor desk and forget that what they're looking at is a sales pitch.

Do you think that the government should set standards so that advertisements don't appear to be news endorsements?

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