Gawker reports that the UK is about to make it illegal for a company to misrepresent itself to consumers online using viral marketing tactics. This includes setting up fake blogs, paying bloggers to hype up products without disclosing their arrangement and otherwise utilizing viral tactics "without making the origin of the message clear."
Sounds severe, but I think this is actually a great move for the industry. With trust in traditional advertising declining and trust in word of mouth (WOM) continuing to increase - especially in the dynamic digital space - I think that establishing a benchmark for authenticity and credibility is essential. At Ogilvy we created the Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics which dictates how we will research, approach and build relationships with online influencers on behalf of our clients. This entire Code is built around respect for the influencer and transparency.
By and large, everyone should already be adhering to similar guidelines because it's just good business. But, hey, if the UK wants to throw people in the clink for doing otherwise than more power to em.