FTC Determines Video Reviews of Xbox One Were Deceptive

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It’s no surprise that gamers excited about the release of a new gaming console would go online to see what people are saying about it. But they might be surprised to learn that some people who posted video reviews were paid to say positive things—and didn’t disclose that. That’s what the FTC says happened in the days leading up to the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One, according to a complaint filed today by the agency.

799px-Xbox_One_front_side_viewMachinima, the operator of a popular YouTube network with 3 billion monthly video views, paid two influential gaming bloggers to create videos touting the new Xbox One and three new games and didn’t require them to disclose that they were paid for their favorable reviews. The bloggers posted four videos that had more than 1.6 million views. Machinima later recruited and paid more people to upload positive video reviews–again without requiring a disclosure. This generated another 300 videos and 30 million views in a five-week period.

The law says reviewers should disclose their connection to a company. Why? Because a connection could affect the credibility a consumer gives to the review. Wouldn’t you have a different opinion of a recommendation if you knew the reviewer was paid to tout the product?

When you’re reading or watching online reviews, look for a disclosure. If it’s there, it should be easy to notice. In the case of a video, it has to be on the screen long enough for you to read and understand it.

Think about the source of the review and who’s behind it. Is it from an individual user or an impartial, expert organization? Weigh reviews from several trusted sources.