This blog post by friend to Dietitians For Professional Integrity Dr. Yoni Freedhoff on sponsored tweets and appropriate disclosure caught our eye as it demonstrates how, in some cases, food industry public relations efforts (especially ones to deflect from rightful criticism from health advocates) can masquerade as objective information.
Dr. Freedhoff urges his readers to be familiar with the following seven nutrition hashtags:
Dr. Freedhoff explains:
- “That’s not to say that tweets with any one of those hashtags should be dismissed, or that the person who is putting them out doesn’t believe in their content, or that the content isn’t 100% true, but please take them for what they are – advertising – as those hashtags are there to make you aware that the tweeter involved is getting paid by the industry/corporation/product referenced in the tweet.”
- “While I think those folks using those hashtags are doing the right things with their disclosures (and sort of obeying the law as the FTC has ruled that RDs who receive compensation by companies must disclose – but the FTC feels only #Ad right up front does the job), and by no means should someone reading this post think I’ve got it out for folks getting paid to tweet, I do wonder how many regular folks reading those tweets would recognize those hashtags’ significance (especially #Sp, #Cl, #Cli, #Spon, and #Spons)?
- “I also have to wonder what percentage of directly or indirectly compensated RD tweets actually include disclosures as from my tweet stream at least, it would seem that percentage is very small, and the percentage of those that disclose with #Ad up front is even smaller still.”
We are in full agreement that the mere inclusion of these hashtags does not automatically make the information wrong or deceptive. Context is important.
However, it seems to us that the majority of these tweets are usually written on behalf of industries that are increasingly coming under scrutiny and are in dire need of public defense. After all, from a PR standpoint, it’s more effective to have a credentialed health expert stand up for you rather than one of your own executives.
Consider what happened earlier this week when Coca-Cola’s Vice President and Chief Scientific and Regulatory Officer tried to defend the soft drink giant by claiming that curbing added sugar could be lethal (!).