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Online Advertising

A well-known cartoon shows two dogs in front of a computer. The caption reads, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

While the cartoon is amusing, the reality is not: The inherent anonymity of the Internet has fostered a number of questionable advertising and marketing practices, such as unsolicited email spam. Over the past decade, federal and state governments have passed advertising laws that protect consumer privacy and ensure fair and truthful advertising practices online.

If you plan to advertise online -- whether you're buying ads on search engines or direct marketing through email -- you'll need to understand some basic rules. Go to these resources to learn more.

Discusses the applicability of federal advertising laws to Internet advertising and marketing.

Describes information businesses should consider as they develop online ads to ensure that they comply with the law.

Details the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act), which establishes requirements for those who send commercial email. It also spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them. Commercial email messages must include: notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation, an opt-out notice, and a valid postal address of the sender. CAN-SPAM also prohibits falsification of transmission information and deceptive subject headings. The Act creates criminal prohibitions against those who knowingly transmit spam through others' computers without authorization. The Federal Trade Commission may also pursue individuals who knowingly hire others to send deceptive spam.

Explains the truthful requirements for claims that you make in any advertisement for your products or services, including those sent by email. This means that you must honor any promises you make to remove consumers from email mailing lists.

Related Resources

Provides a small business guide to regulations governing online businesses.