Should Paid-For Tweets Be Disclosed?

Twitter has its own “promoted tweets” mechanisms, which are easy to recognise (and ignore). Those seem fair enough — Twitter has to make money somewhere. But is it OK for people to be paid to tweet about something and not mention the fact at all?

Last night’s Media Watch examined how the South Australian Tourism Commission offered payments of $750 to “high profile celebrities” to mention Kangaroo Island in one of their tweets. Singer Shannon Noll, presenter Sophie Falkiner and chef Matt Moran all took the bait, posting messages about the destination. But they didn’t mention that they’d received the payment.

Clearly, much of the discussion that takes place on Twitter has an obvious agenda. If you choose to follow a major IT company, you won’t be surprised to see messages promoting its products. If you follow a journalist, they’ll inevitably tweet links to stories they have written.

Equally obviously, celebrities derive some of their income from advertising, and that’s likely to become more important in an era where making money simply from selling content is harder. I’m not going to be surprised to see Mel B tweeting about Jenny Craig.

The slippery slope issue is whether a tweet which has been paid for, but which doesn’t have an obvious commercial intent, is acceptable behaviour. Should celebrities disclose, Twitter-style, that messages have been paid for? Or Do people who take holiday spot recommendations from celebrities deserve whatever they get? Is $750 too cheap? Share your perspective in the comments.

Media Watch

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