FTC to Overhaul Guidance on Digital Advertising

June 6, 2022 by Dan McCue
FTC to Overhaul Guidance on Digital Advertising

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission on Friday began the first major overhaul of its guidance for digital advertisers in nearly a decade.

Last updated in March 2013, the guidance entitled “How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising,” established a framework for advertisers to ensure all terms, conditions and disclaimers were made visible to people who accessed ads on their tablets or cellphones.

In recent years, however, the agency has found attempts to deceive the public have only grown in sophistication, with some companies wrongly citing the original guides to justify nefarious practices that mislead consumers.

In an announcement posted on its website, the FTC cited the example of firms that claim they can avoid liability under the FTC Act by burying disclosures behind hyperlinks.


But the agency says by doing so, these firms are actually exposing consumers to financial fraud, intrusive surveillance, and other harms.

“We know that some companies are wrongly citing our current guides to justify dark patterns and other forms of digital deception,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a written statement. 


“We are looking to update the guides to make clear that online tricks and traps will not be tolerated, and we look forward to hearing from the public on this initiative,” Levine said.

The FTC said its staff is now seeking public input to ensure the guides are helping honest businesses treat consumers fairly, rather than being used as a shield by firms looking to deceive. 

In terms of possible revisions, the agency said it is particularly interested in the technical and legal issues that consumers, the FTC’s law enforcement partners, and others believe should be addressed. 

The issues on which FTC staff is seeking comment include:


  • the use of sponsored and promoted advertising on social media;
  • advertising embedded in games and virtual reality and microtargeted advertisements;
  • the ubiquitous use of dark patterns, manipulative user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps, and in digital advertising that pose unique risks to consumers;
  • whether the current guidance adequately addresses advertising on mobile devices;
  • whether additional guidance is needed to reflect the multi-party selling arrangements involved in online commerce and affiliate marketing arrangements;
  • how the guidance on the use of hyperlinks can be strengthened to better protect consumers; and
  • the adequacy of online disclosures when consumers must navigate multiple webpages;

The FTC will seek public comment through Aug. 2, 2022. Information on how to submit comments can be found here

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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