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You’d be fired if you paid for fake testimonials in your TV ads …

Forrester1… so why would you even consider using a service like Izea to pay bloggers to write about you? Just because it's social media doesn't make it right.

This isn't an issue of fine lines and gray areas: Writing an endorsement of a product you have never used is illegal and has always been illegal under the FTC's Endorsement rules. It's not an issue of disclosure, either. If you endorse a product that you haven't used, it's a fake review. You are liable. If an advertiser pays you to do it, they are liable, too.

Izea is conducting an aggressive PR campaign to convince you that it's OK. They are trying to tell a story that there are two sides to this issue, and they have the secret formula for doing it right. They've fooled the Wall Street Journal, and paid Forrester for a suspiciously friendly report (and are paying bloggers $0.27 each to promote the report).

But TechCrunch gets it right and exposes Izea's campaign to muddy the waters. The Financial Times asks some damn good questions, too.

Bottom line: Paying for fake reviews is unethical and illegal.

Companies: Sit your lawyers down with your social media team and clean out this filthy practice before you become the test case when the FTC inevitably puts companies on the stand.

P.S. It's also time to start asking why respectable VC Draper Fisher is funding this questionable project.

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