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'Fake News' Crackdown: Avoid Deceptive Claims

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 11, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Thinking about advertising your new product via a fake news site like in the acai berry scheme? If you do, you may run afoul of the FTC.

The FTC has recently started to crack down on acai berry schemes. The fake news sites look to be from legitimate news sources like NBC, CNN, Fox or USA Today, but are actually not affiliated with the outlets at all.

The ads in question look to be real news stories, but are actually simply clever advertisements disguised as news stories designed to catch customers. How can your business avoid running into trouble?

The simple answer is to make sure that your advertisements don't end up being as deceptive as the acai berry ads.

First and foremost, steer clear form making statements that go above and beyond puffing up your product. Don't hawk your goods like you are a snake oil salesman by promising miracles that you cannot back up - advertise your products legitimately. Generating trust and buzz with consumers based on results that you can back up can be helpful.

And, try not to make your advertisements look to be something that they are not. The acai berry flat belly ads looked like they were investigative journalism pieces, when they were actually just ads designed to feed consumers into purchasing acai berry products from third parties.

Getting kickbacks from websites for them touting your goods may also make you run into some legal troubles. A FTC ruling in 2009 has made it so that websites who get money or have financial ties and connections with the products should have disclaimers and tell buyers of the connection.

Of course, most businesses won't advertise via something that looks like a fake news site like in the acai berry scheme. But, in the slippery world of online advertising, it's important to recognize and be aware of some of the limitations that have been placed on online advertising.

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