In what could be a seminal case of the Internet age, the U.S. Supreme Court this week heard arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, its first case concerning the hotly debated Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The case’s potential ramifications might be gleaned from the 70-plus amicus briefs filed by major companies
Ready, Aim, Fire: FTC Scores Record-Breaking $520 Million Settlement with Fortnite Creator Epic Games
This week the Federal Trade Commission unveiled hefty settlements with Epic Games Inc.—the creator of the video game Fortnite—to resolve separate actions alleging violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), respectively.
Epic Games will pay $245 million in consumer redress to settle the alleged Section 5 violations in an FTC administrative proceeding and will pay $275 million in monetary penalties to settle the COPPA action in federal court. The cases highlight two hot spots for the FTC—dark patterns and children’s privacy.
In its administrative complaint, the FTC alleges that Epic Games used dark patterns, making the gameplay interface confusing and tricking players into making in-game purchases, often when they did not intend to. Specifically, the complaint alleges that:…
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A Sign of the Times: Federal Trade Commission Releases Guidance on Consumer Reviews
Customer reviews and ratings are powerful, low-cost marketing tools. Technology now allows marketers to harness this power on a scale that was unimaginable even five years ago. The ability to solicit, capture, and post reviews and ratings is virtually seamless. But it is just as easy to seek shortcuts or abuse the system. In response, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has devoted resources to addressing consumer review fraud, including through public education. Early in the year, it issued nonbinding guidance for both marketers and online review platforms, warning against potentially deceptive acts, such as faking, manipulating, or suppressing online reviews, as well as paying for higher rankings from purportedly “independent” consumer ranking websites. Online reviews should reflect customers’ honest opinions. So how does the FTC suggest you get there?…
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The FTC Brings More Light to Dark Patterns in New Staff Report
By a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Federal Trade Commission last week released a staff report that sheds light on the agency’s enforcement positions and priorities regarding digital “dark patterns,” which the FTC defines as interface designs used to manipulate consumers into making decisions about purchases and personal data that they otherwise would not have.
Stemming from a public workshop the FTC hosted in April 2021, the report, “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light,” uses examples and illustrations to catalog and criticize numerous commonly seen practices in e-commerce, and includes an appendix describing types of dark patterns, while also stressing that dark patterns have a stronger effect, and by extension cause greater consumer harm, when they are used in combination, rather than in isolation.
Given Chair Lina Khan’s ambitious enforcement and policy goals for the agency, which we’ve previously discussed, anyone who engages with consumers online should consider the report both a reference and a warning. …
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Branding the Future: Advertising Law, the Metaverse, and NFTs – Part 2
Read more about Metaverse and NFT advertising legal issues .
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Branding the Future: Advertising Law, the Metaverse, and NFTs – Part 1
Read more about Metaverse and NFT advertising legal issues.
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What You Need to Know About FTC’s Proposed Changes to Its Endorsement Guides
Webinar | June 28, 2022 | 2:30 – 3:00 p.m. ET | REGISTER
Venable partners Len Gordon and Alexandra Megaris will present “What You Need to Know About FTC’s Proposed Changes to Its Endorsement Guides.” The Endorsement Guides, first issued in 1980 and last amended in 2009, reflect the Commission’s interpretation of how the FTC…
FTC Asks Online Advertisers to Weigh in on Dark Patterns, Calls for Comment on Its .Com Disclosures Guidance
The Federal Trade Commission has requested public input about potential updates to its “Dot.Com Disclosures.” The guidance document was last updated nearly a decade ago and has not addressed much of the new technology that has emerged and the evolution in online advertising. As a result, the agency’s call for comments will allow those interested to provide feedback and suggestions to modernize the guides. Comments are due by August 2, 2022.
The FTC has asked for industry stakeholders’ input on many issues, including:…
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Twitter Will Pay $150 Million to Settle Charges That It Misrepresented Its Privacy and Security Practices
Last week, the United States Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, took action against Twitter, Inc. for allegedly using private account security data to sell targeted advertisements without informing the platform’s users. To settle the matter, Twitter agreed to a stipulated order requiring the social media giant to pay $150 million in civil penalties, which the court entered a day after the complaint was filed.
Understanding the recent settlement warrants a quick history lesson on Twitter’s dealings with the FTC. In 2010, the FTC filed an administrative complaint against Twitter, asserting the company misrepresented the security measures it had in place to protect private user information from unauthorized access and to honor users’ privacy choices. This ultimately led to a 2011 FTC Order that barred Twitter from misrepresenting the extent to which it “maintains and protects security, privacy, confidentiality, or integrity of any nonpublic consumer information.”…
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Intuit Will Pay $141 Million in State Attorneys General Settlement Over Deceptive TurboTax Advertising
“Free” must mean free?
Last week, the attorneys general for all 50 states and the District of Columbia announced a settlement with Intuit, Inc., the owner of TurboTax, which will require the company to hand over $141 million to consumers as restitution for allegedly tricking consumers into paying for tax-filing services when they qualified for free tax-filing services.
Recently, we wrote about the Federal Trade Commission’s legal action against Intuit for its advertisements regarding “free” tax-filing services. In that action, the FTC sought to definitively resolve that very question. As part of last week’s settlement agreement, Intuit will cease its advertising campaign promoting its “free, free, free” services in addition to paying the hefty restitution sum. The state settlement essentially ended the FTC action as well.
While the states’ investigation overlapped with the FTC’s action concerning Intuit’s alleged bait-and-switch advertising (i.e., representing the service is “free” but later requiring an upgrade to a paid version), their investigation also had another focus: “dark patterns,” which refers to a digital design feature that is intended to subtly influence a consumer’s online decisions.…
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