Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC
FTC Seeks Input for Revising Its Guidance to Businesses About Online Advertising, FTC Matter No. P114506
The FTC must eliminate Social Media Credential Fraud. Social Media Credential Fraud may occur when a social media user utilizes social media commercially to create a false and deceptive impression to consumers, businesses, and/or other professionals. The FTC's Dot Com Disclosure must be updated to reflect that this practice is deceptive and unlawful. Social Media Credential Fraud may take place when a Twitter user who utilizes his Twitter account for commercial purposes intentionally follows tens or hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter and once the Twitter user receives a reciprocal follow back he un-follows that person and/or the Twitter user does a mass un-follow to the tune of 10,000, 25,000, or 50,000 + to give the false impression that the Twitter user has a large organic Twitter Following without having to follow a large number of others on Twitter. This practice greatly distorts the Twitter Following to Followers ratio. Creating a deceptive and misleading Following to Follower figure and ratio is no different than falsely claiming that a company has served five million hot dogs when it has only served five thousand. Employers, large companies, and members of the media are using social media metrics to determine whom to hire and who is considered an expert in a profession. In addition, companies such as Klout, PeerIndex, or Crowdbooster, etc… are trying to create algorithms to measure online influence. Due to Social Media Credential Fraud, companies that are trying to create online influence measurement tools are not able to accurately do so because Social Media Credential Fraud is becoming a growing problem that will harm not just the advertising industry but also other segments of the economy and consumers. For example, Audi is in the process of offering promotions to Facebook users based on their Klout score. Virgin America has used Klout Scores to determine who should receive special offers and the Palms Hotel and Casino is using Klout Scores to give highly rated guests an upgrade or tickets to Cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately, Klout Scores and other tools that claim to be able to measure online influence are being fraudulently manipulated by practitioners of Social Media Credential Fraud. Social Media Credential Fraud is analogous to creating false and misleading online reviews. The purpose of creating misleading and deceptive online reviews is to create an impression that many consumers and/or other businesses have a favorable impression about a professional, or a company's product or service. Misleading and deceptive online reviews are then utilized by some consumers to make buying decisions. Consumers and employers are factoring in social media credentials when making economic decisions. If practitioners of Social Media Credential Fraud are allowed to continue without repercussion this will undermine the credibility of the entire social media industry. The FTC must start issuing administrative complaints against those who are practicing Social Media Credential Fraud because this activity is analogous to the deceptive advertising claims that were settled in the Legacy Learning matter.