FTC Updates Guidance For Search Engines On Advertising

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On June 25, the FTC announced updated guidance for the search engine industry on distinguishing paid search results from natural search results. The updated guidance was in the form of letters sent to seven general purpose search engines and 17 high traffic specialized search engines. The FTC noted that the principles of its original 2002 guidance still apply, but that changes in the search industry and requests from industry and consumer groups led the agency to issue the revised guidance. The guidance states that the failure to clearly and prominently distinguish advertising from natural search results, such as through visual cues, labels, or other techniques, could constitute a deceptive practice. The FTC also noted that the principles of the guidance should be applied to new means used by consumers to search for information, such as social media, mobile applications and voice assistants on mobile devices.