EU Directive hits floggersLast year, there was lots of talk about fake blogs (aka flogs) and one or two notables (Walmarting across America and All I want for Xmas is a PSP particularly come to mind) which rose up above the flog mediocrity to be truly awful. There were also some high profile companies amongst them and both they and the marketing companies which initiated them on their behalf were roundly berated by the blogosphere as a whole, and the blogs (or should I say flogs) quickly closed down and withdrawn.

Generally this is the way that the blogosphere has policed its own. However, in Europe, as from the start of next year, the courts are lending a hand as a new EU directive comes into play which would make this type of activity punishable by law as reported in The Times early this year and The Register more recently.

In fact, the Directive is not specifically designed for blogs, fake or otherwise. It casts its net much wider than this and is concerned generally with media where someone falsely represents themselves as a consumer. In the online world, these could be testimonials on websites, book reviews on Amazon, reviews on hotel or holiday sites or presumably any online media including forums, blogs etc. where organisations leave favourable comments under a false name to try to influence other consumers.

So, while its encouraging to see the European Union leading the way in anything to do with “online”, a couple of things come to mind.

Firstly, is this something that is really necessary either in its proposed form or indeed at all? Is it not possible to maintain a type of self regulation which the blogosphere has shown itself to be particularly adept at when it feels that companies have overstepped the mark.

Secondly, I also worry that the whole thing is quite “un-policeable” with the huge number of online areas where this type of thing could be going on … and of course if cases are not followed up then why attempt external policing in the first place?

However, what is clear is that this is a very open confirmation of the importance and influence of Word of Mouth and, by implication, of “Word of Blog” as one of its principal online incarnations. So make sure that you don’t overstep the boundaries and fall foul of the law, but at the same time do make sure that you are using your blog to support and develop your online Word of Mouth and marketing activities as a whole.

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