FTC Finally Permanently Shuts Down Fake News Sites Shilling For Acai Berries

It was nine months ago that the Federal Trade Commission announced its crackdown on companies that created sites aimed to look like news reports that were really just advertisements for supplements and other weight loss products made from acai berries. Now, as part of a settlement agreement, six online marketers will permanently stop the deceptive practice.

The proposed settlement requires the defendants make clear when commercial messages are advertisements as opposed to journalism, and bars them from further deceptive claims about health-related products, such as the acai berry weight-loss supplements and colon cleansers that they marketed.

Among other stipulations of the settlement, the marketers are also barred from making deceptive claims about other products, such as the work-at-home schemes or penny auctions promoted by many of them.

The settlements also requires the defendants pay about $500,000 collectively, because their advertisements violated federal law.

While all the acai hype was building in recent years, our cohorts at Consumer Reports have maintained that although the berries may be high in antioxidants, there is little evidence that they have special weight-loss or other such powers that you can often touted in ads on the Internet.

FTC Permanently Stops Six Operators from Using Fake News Sites that Allegedly Deceived Consumers about Acai Berry Weight-Loss Products [FTC]

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  1. Cat says:

    $500,000 collectively? I’m sure their profits will cover that.

  2. DJ Charlie says:

    That explains the sudden upswing in “Get Acai PILZ NOW!” spam I’m seeing.

  3. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    The proposed settlement requires the defendants make clear when commercial messages are advertisements as opposed to journalism

    And yet there’s no penalty at all if a local or national news program runs a sponsored news segment produced by an advertiser to fill time, making it look like a station-produced real news item.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      They are supposed to label such segments but oftentimes the “labeling” is pretty much as vague and obtuse as humanly possible — when they remember to do them at all.

  4. Cat says:

    As seen on Facebook, twitter, and now Consumerist!

    SeeBS reporter Cat investigates the magical weight loss and healing powers of miracle Dingleberries!

    Disturbing film at 11.

  5. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    Now if they’ll just nail those freaky amish heater folks.

    >.>

  6. Underpants Gnome says:

    Now if only they’d shut down that $50/bottle acai juice pyramid scheme that forces me to have no contact with various acquaintances.

  7. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “…the marketers are also barred from making deceptive claims about other products…”

    That’s funny. I thought *everyone* was barred from making deceptive claims about, well, anything.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Are these berries even real, or are they like the crunch berries in cereal?

  9. Southern says:

    Violated Federal law, and no one’s going to prison?

    That’s why these companies keep doing it.

  10. ungeheier says:

    Is Fox News next?

  11. maxamus2 says:

    I haven’t looked at a magazine in probably 15 years. I recently got a free subscription to Car and Driver. I am totally flabergasted at not only how many ads are in the magazine, many times it was very difficult to distinguish was was an ad and what was an “article”.

    Out of curiosity, I looked at several other magazines and it was the same, countless “ads” that look like articles and “articles” that are so small and broken up over multiple pages that the articles looked like ads.

    It’s one freaking blur.

    • NewsMuncher says:

      This is why I subscribe to New Scientist (published in the UK) instead of Scientific American. Though I’ve been thinking about getting their online subscription so I can see what’s behind that paywall. With New Scientist, there are ads on the inside front cover, a few half-page ads that are clearly ads interspersed in the body, then a section that is labeled at the top “paid advertising” before the jobs section, with an ad on the back cover. The magazine is thinner, lighter and doesn’t try to flip its own pages when I read it since all of the pages are the same weight and none of that stupid annoying card stock crap.

  12. pot_roast says:

    They’ll just do what the phone spammers have been doing.. move overseas. Out of the reach of the FTC.

  13. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    SOPA!!!

  14. Bugley says:

    “…or other such powers that you can often touted in ads on the Internet.”

    Translation, please.