Looking to update its guidance on how federal advertising law applies to the Internet, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it is revising its 2000 “Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising” document to update the guidelines to reflect technological and legal changes of the last 11 years.

“Eleven years ago, mobile marketing was just a vision, there was not an ‘App’ economy, the use of ‘pop-up blockers’ was not widespread, and online social networking was nowhere as sophisticated or extensive as it is today,” the FTC said in its request for public comment.

“The primary focus of the 2000 publication was to counsel marketers on how to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures of information that consumers needed in order to make informed decisions about goods and services being offered on the Internet,” the agency said, and to emphasize that consumer protection laws applied online as well as off.

Recognizing that the online world has changed dramatically since 2000, the agency is seeking comment on the following specific questions:

  • What issues have been raised by online technologies or Internet activities or features that have emerged since the business guide was issued (e.g., mobile marketing, including screen size) that should be addressed in a revised guidance document?
  • What issues raised by new technologies or Internet activities or features on the horizon should be addressed in a revised business guide?
  • What issues raised by new laws or regulations should be addressed in a revised guidance document?
  • What research or other information regarding the online marketplace, online advertising techniques, or consumer online behavior should the staff consider in revising “Dot Com Disclosures”?
  • What research or other information regarding the effectiveness of disclosures – and, in particular, online disclosures – should the staff consider in revising “Dot Com Disclosures”?
  • What specific types of online disclosures, if any, raise unique issues that should be considered separately from general disclosure requirements?
  • What guidance in the original “Dot Com Disclosures” document is outdated or unnecessary?
  • What guidance in “Dot Com Disclosures” should be clarified, expanded, strengthened, or limited?
  • What issues relating to disclosures have arisen from such multiparty selling arrangements in Internet commerce as (1) established online sellers providing a platform for other firms to market and sell their products online, (2) website operators being compensated for referring consumers to other Internet sites that offer products and services, and (3) other affiliate marketing arrangements?
  • What additional issues or principles relating to online advertising should be addressed in the business guidance document?
  • What other changes, if any, should be made to “Dot Com Disclosures”?

Comments can be submitted until July 11, 2011.

To read the current guidance, click here.

Why it matters: The updated “Dot Com Disclosures” could have a significant impact on Internet advertising, including issues related to affiliate marketing and the challenges of making clear and conspicuous disclosures on the small screen of a mobile device or within the 140-character confines of Twitter.