|From: Jack Frosch email@example.com
Date: 5/8/98 1:16am
Subject: Internet Advertising
I'm writing to comment on proposals to regulate Internet advertising. I'm not an online advertiser, but am a software developer.
Since FTC jurisdiction ends at the U.S. border, and the Internet does not, I'd suggest a complete rethinking of how the feds regulate advertising and trade. Any scammer will just host his site offshore and no public good will be served. Any taxpayer money spent, or regulations promulgated, to get at scammers on the Internet will be a waste of time and energy.
Instead of telling businesses what to do and what not to do, I'd suggest the FTC begin to provide service to consumers and businesses alike. The service provided would be like a cross between the Underwriter's Labs, Consumer Reports, and the Better Business Bureau.
For instance, a legit web site that wants consumers to know it's selling a legit product, could carry an FTC "seal-of-approval." Products and services sold from the web could be validated by the FTC or its agents to get the seal of approval. Sites which have scammed people could be listed through a FTC web site.
Of course, the FTC would never have the resources to validate all the sites - and few in the private sector would want the government picking winners and losers in the market. Instead, you might consider enlisting the services of the private sector, for profit and not for profit entities who could validate advertising on the web. Candidates might include company purchasing agents, advertising companies, ISPs, the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, and even individuals. Just as many states have established credentials for public notaries, a person could be empowered to validate advertising on the Internet, under penalty of law, just like the notaries.
To prevent fraudulent use of the seal of approval, it could be linked to a digital encryption certificate, which would be virtually impossible to copy.
Even if these suggestions don't fit your needs, I hope someone in your organization realizes the futility of regulating advertising on the Internet. The Internet is an electronic world without borders, where sites can be formed, operate, and dissolved in a single working day, and where people will generally resent heavy-handed interference from government regulators. Provide a service with value, and people will appreciate it. Boss people around, and scammers and users alike will resent your interference. Many people think, if government regulators were as smart as they think they are, they'd be running Internet businesses and not working for the government. Offering a valued service would improve people's views of regulators and still meet the objectives. It's time to for 21st century thinking, and not 19th century thought.