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Call for law forcing bloggers – and journos – to disclose payments and gifts

New laws should be passed in Australia to ensure that bloggers declare payments or gifts they receive from brands – but it should apply to journalists too, last night’s Social Media Club Sydney was told.

The comments came after Kangaroo Island was revealed earlier this year to be paying celebrities to tweet about it.

Daniel Kjellsson, of aggregated fashion blogging project Fellt: “I would welcome such a law but you can’t  limit it  to digital, it has to be broader.” He drew laughs as he told the audience: “From my ten years in traditional media I never lived better. I never had more stuff, free, come to me, and that was good times.”   

Asked about whether a law of disclosure was needed, Edelman’s director of consumer brand and digital marketing Matthew Gain told the debate on monetising blogs that although there would be practical difficulties including how big an audience a blogger would have to be before they face regulation, he would be in favour of it. He said “I think it’s difficult to police, but sure why not – there should be something.”

Karla Courtney, who runs The {Tiny} Times blog said a bigger issue requiring regulation in social media were fake reviews. She said: “We need to pursue people making comments on services. With Trip Advisor you just don’t now who is making the comments.”

She said that travel bloggers who take trips may not be directly obliged to write positively, however often feel duty bound to do so. She said: “No pressure but we’re going to email you 20 times for two weeks afterwards.”

But she said that in order to provide coverage for readers, bloggers might have to accept hospitality. She said: “You’re also meant to be covering what’s happening overseas and how do you afford to do that? If you put at the end ‘I was a guest of X company’ is that maybe okay?”

Patty Huntington, who blogs as Frock Writer and also freelances for mainstream media suggested many paid tweets go undeclared, but suggested fashion journos also fail to be upfront about their gifts. She said: ‘There has to be a wake up call. There are a lot of celebrities tweeting stuff… and fashion magazines as well because journalists and fashion writers accept gifts all the time and nobody imposes regulations on them.”

In the US, bloggers are legally obliged to disclose affiliations while in the UK the advertising regulator has investigated brands that fail to declare sponsored tweets.

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