Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×
Advertising Google Government Your Rights Online

FTC Demands Search Engines Separate Paid Advertisements From Search Results 230 230

Posted by Soulskill
from the signal-to-noise dept.
An anonymous reader notes that the FTC has sent letters to search engine companies (PDF) telling them to make sure advertisements are clearly distinguishable from search results. "According to both the FTC staff's original search engine guidance and the updated guidance, failing to clearly and prominently distinguish advertising from natural search results could be a deceptive practice. The updated guidance emphasizes the need for visual cues, labels, or other techniques to effectively distinguish advertisements, in order to avoid misleading consumers, and it makes recommendations for ensuring that disclosures commonly used to identify advertising are noticeable and understandable to consumers. The letters note that the principles of the original guidance still apply, even as search and the business of search continue to evolve. The letters observe that social media, mobile apps, voice assistants on mobile devices, and specialized search results that are integrated into general search results offer consumers new ways of getting information. The guidance advises that regardless of the precise form that search takes now or in the future, paid search results and other forms of advertising should be clearly distinguishable from natural search results."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FTC Demands Search Engines Separate Paid Advertisements From Search Results

Comments Filter:
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @02:55PM (#44103667) Homepage

    Right. Google Shopping was originally a price comparison service. There was no charge for being listed. Then it was changed to an paid ad service. All the links on it changed to Google ad links. Our Ad Limiter [] browser add-on, which hides all but one Google ad per search result, then started limiting the number of shopping results displayed. We finally allowed more ads to show through on explicit Google shopping pages.

    Now, Google Shopping results have changed again, so that they look like real search results. They even have additional Google ads, with the light tan background. But in reality, every result on a Google Shopping page is a paid ad.

  • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @03:02PM (#44103749)

    Google and other ads are specifically designed to look like search results and exploit the fact that older people cannot see contrast of the background as well as younger people. Or even younger people using bad quality or badly calibrated monitors. (Or using Flux).

    The contrast on the background is much lower than the federal 508 standard for contrast and I think has changed to over the years to a lighter shade as Google "optimizes" it. []

    One is an ad and one is a search result, is there much difference? Given the average quality of monitors, I think those are designed to fool even otherwise sharp eyes.

    There is a border on the right of the ads but none on at the bottom. Google must be getting tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue from the color change from blue to yellow, the ones shown in the example are about $50 to $100 for each click. [] []

    Guess they employ many behavioral psychologist super PHDs who tweaked the carefully and scientifically calibrated colors on ads and removed all contrast including borders to make many folks not realize where the ads end and the actual results begin. Forget about people going to paid websites and screwing websites that don't charge users that rank well organically because they're good and popular but don't give the Googolplex any money.

    "Study:Contrast sensitivity gradually decreases with age" []

  • by pr0fessor (1940368) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @03:12PM (#44103869)

    Google already does this... if you search for a product the first results you get are "Ads related to {Your Search Terms}" There are usually two or three online retailers followed by local retailers and google map showing those local retailers. Scroll past that and you get the actual search results and text ads on the right of each result page. Yahoo and Bing try to do the same thing {bing doesn't show a map} and duckduckgo has it's ads in a different color and they say "Sponsored Link" next to them.
    {I don't actually use yahoo, bing, or duckduckgo but had to look and see how they were laid out}
    Not sure how any other search engines are laid out but figure those are the four I hear the most about. I figure for public relations and to keep traffic the top search engines will do this anyway.

  • by Vairon (17314) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @04:17PM (#44104723)

    If you read the letter they sent to US based search engines you will find they are only talking about FTC Act Section 5 which I believe is codified in 15 USC 45(a). []

    If you read that section of the law you will find that it mostly just applies to US businesses.

    Do you have any actual evidence that the FTC is trying to assert authority over a non-US based business that runs a search engine?

  • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @04:55PM (#44105197)

    Nice custom crop job.
    You deliberately cut off the top indicator that stated "Ads Related to [search term] which has an info circle.

    Why should I read anything you post when you go out of your way to custom crop what Google puts on the page?

  • by Ash Vince (602485) * on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @05:16PM (#44105487) Journal

    Are you paid to post crap about Google?

      Notice your screenshot is trimmed down to hide the word "Ads" from the top right. You might say it us not prevalent enough and have a point but by photoshopping your screenshot you also edited away your credibility.

"Ninety percent of baseball is half mental." -- Yogi Berra