Robert Giles, the editor of the Online Journalism Review, has come down on the side of bloggers as journalists, at least to the extent that bloggers can be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Giles blasted the FTC for imposing new rules on bloggers that he said violate the First Amendment:
I do not believe that the purpose of the First Amendment was to provide legal protection to specific class of corporations, namely, newspaper companies. The intent was, and should continue to be, to empower the people of the country, collectively and as individuals, to keep a watchful eye on their government and communities, and to speak in advocacy of their beliefs.
The Internet fulfills the Founders’ promise of a free press to the people. No longer is “freedom of the press” limited to an elite few. … People who have devoted their careers to reporting and publishing news should welcome this functional expansion of the First Amendment, providing us millions of new potential allies, engaged in our communities. A handful of clueless bureaucrats in the FTC should not be empowered to stand in their way.
Giles also chastised The New York Times for editorializing in favor of the FTC’s rules against paid product endorsements by bloggers. He noted that the newspaper does not disclose to readers that its movie and book critics review products for free rather than buying the products. Under the FTC rules, if a blogger wrote a favorable review, he or she could be subject to a steep fine for not disclosing the freebie.
“Freedom of the press belongs to all Americans, and not just to the newspaper industry — despite what the FTC and The New York Times would have you believe,” Giles wrote.