Thursday, January 23, 2020

Visitor questions in comments whether my content is simply gratuitous; fairness in advertising; non-profits want joiners, not speakers

I have a couple of topics today.

In mid December, I went to a screening of a film “Freelancers: Mexico” from Journeyman Pictures, directed by a journalism professor, Bill Gentile, at American University, shown  at the Newseum before it closed.  As is my custom, I filmed brief clips of the QA.  This is usually allowed at most independent films screenings (I think there has been only one time it wasn’t).  I often will ask one question as I did here but I usually don’t record by own question, just because of time constraints in uploading stuff at home later.

I got a bizarre sequence of comments to this one video of a film producer speaking, and her (the speaker’s) content was innocuous politically (despite the sensitivity of the topic of the film – journalists’ safety in Mexico given the current political climate with Trump).

The commenter keeps insisting on my explaining why I recorded and reported on this, unless someone else asked me about his home country, Mexico.  What is his point?  I looked up his playlist on YouTube and the name on Google, and there are many people with that name, including one relatively high profile popular musician.

Now, the video does not have ads, so at first there does not seem to be any conceivable disclosure issue.  It is true, however, that bloggers and vloggers are expected by the FTC to disclose if anyone paid them for the content (sponsored them), or if anyone provided them a free copy or rental or ticket for a film or copy of a book to review. 

This seems to be more a “skin in the game” problem, where the commenter doesn’t believe people should not write or film online (in their own channels) about things that will not directly affect them, unless they are credentialed as “professional” journalists.  That has been part of the culture war online the last two years.
But Virtual Legality today published a video on a bigger problem about Google ads, and the possibility of deception with regard to FTC rules.  He refers to a recent Verge article by Jon Porter, link.
Much of the discussion has to do with Google’s arguably making sponsored ads (specifically for Google Search) “look like” search results.  Hoeg is concerned that advertisers, especially professionals, could get into trouble if they advertise on platforms that aren’t following FTC disclosure rules.

“Your company is responsible for what others do on your behalf”, Hoeg says, paraphrasing the FTC.

It seems odd that in one post I run into something that affects both very tiny channels and very large corporate operators.

There’s one other thing today “as part of this little ordeal” (to quote a favorite video). Recently, I visited an exurban community independent bookstore (in an old house) some distance away in rural Maryland. There had been a news story about the owner who has Parkinson’s.  I wrote up the visit on my Books blog (see Profile), but I gave him my information.  Tuesday, I got two personalized mailings from Parkinson’s Foundation.  I get a lot of non-profit mailings, although I do most of my donations in automated fashion at a bank – and that does not work out well for many of them.  I had a cousin die of ALS (which I give to regularly through the bank) and have met people with MS.  These are all different diseases, perhaps autoimmune.  But non-profits are desperately trying to recruit activists who will focus specifically on them, not bloggers who just mention them.  This loops back to the first part of this post.

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