Gawker Purchases Balloon Hoax Story

Video montage of the National Equality March in Washington D.C

Video montage of the National Equality March in Washington D.C. on Sunday, October 11, 2009 (on National Coming Out Day). Over 200,000 LGBT and Straight Americans descended upon Washington D.C. to demand equal protection under the law in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states, as entitled by the 14th Amendment to our United States Constitution. The video includes appearances by Lt. Dan Choi, Cleve Jones and the Broadway cast of Hair. Set to an original song wrote for the National Equality March called "Equality Now".

Bloggers! How will the recent FTC guidelines affect you

As you may of heard the FTC has released some new guidelines which
will affect all affiliates working online.

We got many questions about this recent change so we decided to
give you all the facts and answer all your questions in this

What's the short version of what the FTC changes are?

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission released their new guidelines on
10/05/2009. You'll find the complete guidelines at

It's a long read, so let's see if we can summarize the main points
for you quickly:

1) If you have a relationship with someone whose product you're
endorsing (which also means promoting), you must disclose that
relationship. That means you have to say explicitly if you got a
free copy of the product and/or any payment for your endorsement.

2) If you use testimonials to sell a product (yours or someone
else's), you can't use testimonials that give specific results
without also telling readers/viewers what the typical results are.

They'll fine you $11,000 per violation.

There are more details in the guidelines, which we strongly
recommend that you read, but those are the key points. And by the
way, we're not lawyers, so by all means get true legal advice from
a lawyer as you're figuring out how you'll respond to the new

Frankly, some parts of the new guidelines are vague. The FTC says
they did that somewhat on purpose, and they'll handle things on a
case by case basis.

That makes it more difficult to know how to comply in certain
situations, because it's hard to figure out how the guidelines
apply, but that's the way it is.

That means there are plenty of unresolved questions, too...and we
won't know the answers until the FTC starts enforcing the

The FTC has said that the guidelines are really meant to clarify
things for bloggers and for corporations, but it's easy to see how
they could go after just about any marketer due to the vague

When do the new rules take effect?

They go into effect on December 01, 2009.

They were approved by a unanimous vote (4-0), so there's no chance
they won't go into effect on the scheduled date. This is just
something we'll all have to live with, whether we like it or not.

What about for marketers with businesses outside the U.S.?

If you're outside the U.S. and you're not selling to people inside
the U.S., you're not affected at all.

But really, how many web businesses never sell to people in the
U.S.? Not many. It's safer to assume that folks in the States will
buy your stuff, and that you should follow the FTC guidelines.

What does this mean for testimonials on a sales page?

We know you've seen testimonials on sales pages that say things
like, "I made $14,576 in 20 minutes with just the tip on page
12!!!" Those are likely to disappear.

It used to be perfectly acceptable to cherry-pick great results
like that and cover yourself with a simple disclaimer like this:
"These results aren't typical." Not anymore.

The guidelines say, "advertisements that feature a consumer and
convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical
when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the
results that consumers can generally expect."

That means if you're going to mention specific results in
testimonials, you have to tell people what the typical results are.

We all know what the typical results are for most information
products... people buy them and do nothing with them. That means
it's nearly impossible for you to quantify a "typical" result. If
you don't know what results at least a statistically significant
sample of buyers got, you can say what's typical!

All of that means (get ready for it) you simply can't use
results-based testimonials. Period. Unless you want to risk an
$11,000 fine each time you get caught.

You can still use testimonials where people say they love your
product, or like you a lot, or generally think you're swell. Those
tend not to be powerful selling tools, but they pass muster.

But that's not all the guidelines mean.

You also have to disclose if your friends wrote your testimonials.
Again, will you get caught if you don't? Probably not, but it's a
risk. Honesty is the best way not to get in trouble.

The best advice is not to depend on testimonials to sell your
product. Make your offer good enough to sell on its own.

In a way, this is bad for new marketers, because it can be tough to
come up with a good offer. But it's also good, because you don't
have to worry as much about getting testimonials!

What does this mean for affiliate marketing?

It's actually simpler for affiliates than for product sellers.

If you're an affiliate, you have to disclose that you're getting
paid when people buy through your affiliate link.

Yes, that means you need to tell people that your ClickBank link is
indeed a ClickBank link, even if you've made it prettier by saying
"yoursite dot com/productx" or whatever.

There are two ways to do this. The first way is to include a
general statement on your site (maybe in your privacy policy),
something like this:

"Links on this site for product reviews are affiliate links. I get
paid a commission when you buy a product after clicking on one of
those links."

The second way is to be explicit about each link. You might say
something like, "I get paid a commission when you buy through this

Do both approaches cover you legally? Hard to say, and the FTC
hasn't cleared that up yet. So do whichever one you think is safer.

Finally, as an affiliate be VERY careful about using the
promotional email templates product sellers give you.

Those emails often contain claims about results, and the new FTC
guidelines frown on that unless you tell people what the typical
results are.

The new FTC guidelines don't specifically talk about email
marketing, but odds are good this will be considered covered as
well (hey, it's selling). So when in doubt, leave it out.

So what should I do?

First and foremost, you'll want to get some genuine legal advice,
especially if you have a big site and/or a large mailing list.
Don't just take our word for this stuff.

If you're an affiliate marketer, get busy adding disclosures to the
sites you use to promote products. That includes blogs and review
pages/sites. At a minimum:

1) Add a general disclosure to your site saying that your
promotional links are affiliate links, and that you get paid when
people buy through those links

2) If you offer an free items (front-end sign-up enticements or
bonuses), make sure you tell people that any affiliate links in
those items are getting you paid

Beyond that, it's up to you. When in doubt, disclose more
information than you think you need to. It doesn't pay to get on
the wrong side of the FTC.

If you're a product marketer, you'll probably have more work to do.
Here's a very brief (and probably incomplete) checklist:

1) Start scrubbing your results-based testimonials from your sales
pages. If you actually CAN quantify typical/average results, go
ahead and do that, but most people won't be able to. In fact,
during the comment period on the rules, some folks brought that up
with the FTC, specifically for weight loss products...and the FTC
promptly ignored it.

2) Modify your affiliate email templates (and other things, like
solo ads) to remove any results claims.

3) Contact your affiliates to tell them you did that, and to give
them new stuff they can use instead.

4) Scrub your products of any results claims as well, unless
they're your personal results and you include ALL of your results
(results for every single trial of your free traffic strategy, for

5) If you use any testimonials from people you gave a free copy of
your product to, say so.

Bottom line, disclose, disclose, disclose. Did we mention disclose?

In the end, these new guidelines aren't the death of Internet
marketing, or of affiliate marketing. And if you sell a product on
the web, you aren't out of business.

That said, if you don't want to risk racking up some eye-popping
fines, please take some reasonable steps to comply with the new
guidelines as soon as you can... and as completely as you can,
given that they're a little vague at the moment.

We all have to make changes, unless we just got lucky and were
completely untouched by the new guidelines. That's probably rare.
So make the changes you need to make and get used to the new world.

And look on the bright side. The new guidelines are going to make
it harder for people to sell with hype and false promises. Those
kind of fraudulent sellers hurt everybody by giving Internet
marketing a bad name.

Listen to my news Podcast
Visit My Social Media Blog
Visit me on twitter
Visit Me On Face Book
My Biz on Twitter

Following Media Matters exclusives, CNN dismantles Fox's lies about Jennings

Right-wing media lynch mob gay-baits White House, facts be damned

Right-wing media lynch mob gay-baits White House, facts be damned

For the better part of a week, conservatives in the media have been on a witch hunt for Kevin Jennings, the director of the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Led by Fox News, the right-wing media have claimed that 21 years ago, when Jennings was a 24-year-old teacher at Concord Academy in Massachusetts, he "cover[ed] up statutory rape" by not reporting to authorities a conversation he had with a student who told him about being involved with an "older man."

The attacks on Jennings, the latest Obama administration official in the right's crosshairs, have been disgusting, misleading, baseless, and at times pointedly anti-gay.

WorldNetDaily's Erik Rush called Jennings a "radical homosexual druggie." The conservative Washington Times contended in an editorial that "Jennings has made extremely radical statements promoting homosexuality in schools." Right-wing radio's big kahuna, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News' Sean Hannity both claimed that Jennings supported promoting homosexuality in the schools, while conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote that Jennings was a "controversial homosexual rights' advocate" who founded a "controversial" organization that "aggressively pushes sexually explicit" books.

The controversial organization of which Malkin speaks? GLSEN -- the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network -- which, according to the organization's website, is "the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. ... GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression."

In addition to the right's attacks aimed at Jennings' sexual orientation, conservative media outlets sought to paint Jennings as complicit in covering up a crime -- specifically "statutory rape." A Washington Times editorial accused Jennings of "encourag[ing]" a relationship that amounted to "statutory rape." Led by Hannity, Fox News also baselessly claimed that Jennings "cover[ed] up statutory rape" and violated Massachusetts law by not reporting to authorities his 1988 conversation with the student. Limbaugh took things a step further, claiming that Jennings had "encouraged" and "facilitated" a sexual relationship between the student and an adult. Fox News' Bill Hemmer continued the conservative network's attacks on Jennings by claiming that Jennings knew of a "statutory rape" case involving a student but "never reported it." MSNBC's Pat Buchanan went even further, asking if Jennings had "a sense of solidarity with the man, rather than with the kid." Seriously.

The conservative media made it abundantly clear that facts wouldn't get in the way of their latest line of attack on the Obama administration. In a 2004 letter, Jennings' attorney wrote that the student was 16 years old at the time of the incident, which is, and was at the time, the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

Additionally, Media Matters exclusively confirmed the former student's age was 16 at the time of his conversation with Jennings, posting a redacted copy of his current driver's license, his Facebook message exchange with a writer in which he said as much, and his statement on the matter.

If you've ever wondered what kind of folks regularly participate in polls sponsored by, the answer is here. It's two kinds of people: those who are comfortable forming a strong opinion on a subject before the facts are in, and people who get all of their news from Fox News. Ninety-eight percent of respondents to a poll this week said that Jennings should resign due to his "actions" and "questionable past and experience." I wonder where they could have gotten that idea. (After all, self-righteous indignation is what Sean Hannity does best.)

But don't hold your breath hoping for any consistency from Hannity. After The Washington Times established a completely false equivalency between Jennings and former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) (who, if you'll recall, personally pursued young congressional pages), Media Matters went back and checked the record. It turns out that in 2006, while Dennis Hastert was on his way to being criticized by the House Ethics Committee for his failure to stop Foley's actions, Hannity and his Fox News cohorts were among the then-speaker's staunchest defenders. "The only thing that Hastert knew about was that there was an e-mail," Hannity said at the time. "[I]'s always easy to say what [Hastert] should've done," Brit Hume said, "but when you start thinking about the things he could've done, there's not much there." "I think there's no evidence that Hastert did anything wrong, in my view," said Bill Kristol. "Hastert's position is completely defensible," said Mort Kondracke. "Hastert's you know, being witch hunted down," stated Bill O'Reilly.

When it comes to media conservatives, integrity may be dead, but irony certainly is not.

Lost in these right-wing caricatures of Jennings is the simple fact that education officials and others have spoken highly of the Obama administration official, who has received numerous awards and was an appointee of former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a Republican.

With this, the latest conservative media witch hunt debunked and put to bed, the timer starts anew. When will the next witch hunt begin? Who's next on the list?


Listen to my news Podcast
Visit My Social Media Blog
Visit me on twitter
Visit Me On Face Book
My Biz on Twitter

GLBT History Month 2009 Starts Today

GLBT History Month 2009 Starts Today!
Starting today, a GLBT Icon is presented daily, with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images and other resources - all provided for free.

The 31 Icon videos can be embedded without charge on Web sites or blogs. Once embedded, the video player will automatically update the daily Icon video. [More]
GLBT History Month 2009 Icons
Thursday, October 1 - Sunday, October 4th

October 1st - Alvin Ailey Jr.
Alvin Ailey Jr. was an internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a dance company hailed as an ambassador of American culture.

A prolific choreographer, Ailey created 79 original works for his company. His signature piece "Revelations" is touted as the most-watched work of modern dance. [More]
October 2nd - John Amaechi
John Amaechi is the first NBA player to speak publicly about being gay. In 2007, three years after retiring from pro basketball, he became one of only six male professional athletes in the four major U.S. sports to come out.

"It was absolutely my ultimate goal to play in the NBA," says Amaechi. In 1995, his dream became reality. [More]

October 3rd - Tammy Baldwin
Tammy Baldwin is the first out lesbian elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She is one of three openly gay members and the first openly gay non-incumbent elected to Congress.

"There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it's now OK to express ourselves publicly," says Baldwin. "We make that day by doing things publicly until it's simply the way things are." [More]

October 4th - John Cage
Twentieth century composer John Cage pushed the boundaries of traditional music, experimenting with sound, environment and audience perception. His avant-garde work influenced music, painting, dance, performance art and poetry.

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas," said Cage. "I'm frightened of the old ones." [More]

See GLBT History Month videos and more at
Watch from the pre-19th century through the 2000's as Logo presents a video course on the people and events that make up LGBT history through this unique collection of bios, documentaries, films, interviews, and coverage of major events. [More]