FTC not liking AFF

Posted on December 6th on FTC website as well as some media coverage here, AFF targeted by FTC.

Headline from FTC.gov home page: Adult-Oriented Online Social Networking Operation Settles FTC Charges; Unwitting Consumers Pelted With Sexually Graphic Pop-Ups An operation that foisted sexually explicit online pop-up ads on unwitting consumers has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the practice violated federal law.

It appears that the issue is the notorious zango popping up AFF pages when a surfer is browsing for non-adult related items.

They cite:

According to the FTC, AdultFriendFinder.com, which touts itself as “The World’s Largest Sex & Swingers Personal Community,” and its affiliates use pop-up ads to drive traffic to its Web sites. Some of the ads have included graphic depictions of sexual behavior, exposing consumers, including children, to sexually explicit images. Such ads were displayed to consumers who were searching online using terms such as “flowers,” “travel,” and “vacations.” In some cases, defendant’s sexually explicit ads were distributed using spyware and adware.

The agency alleged that the practice of displaying graphic pop-up ads without consumer consent was unfair, and violated the FTC Act.

The FTC settlement terms:
The settlement bars the defendant from displaying sexually explicit ads to consumers unless the consumers are actively seeking out sexually explicit content or unless the consumers have consented to viewing sexually explicit content. It requires the defendant to take steps to ensure that its affiliates comply with the restriction, and end its relationship with any affiliates who do not comply. It also requires the defendant to establish an Internet-based mechanism for consumers to submit complaints. Finally, the settlement contains bookkeeping and record- keeping requirements to allow the Commission to monitor compliance.

This will be interesting to see how this affects zango.. because a rogue affiliate can cause these AFF popups to come up, and AFF gets the slam from the FTC again.

AFF provides the content, its the affiliate that chooses to pop those ads, whether as a link from their own website, or using services like zango/gator/etc.

In a way, its unfair to slap AFF because they can't control what affiliates do with their affiliate links. AFF can't control an affiliate to not use zango, other than terminating the account once they find out about it.. and for that.. who's going to be doing that reporting?

The FTC would just see it as AFF ads are popping and blame them.

An interesting delimma.

I see the implications of this scrutiny to go one step further. Sites like AFF allow affiliates to embed profiles of members, where the images are pulled from AFF servers, that could be sexually explicit.

Banners that are sexually graphic could be targetted next by FTC when affiliates run these banners on pages that aren't adult related.

Will adult paysite/cash program be responsible for that as well?

Fight the microscope!