Advertising or not? Group aims to clear up Web confusion

Web content managers are seeking clarification about when listing a private company on a Web site is considered an advertisement or endorsement.

Bev Godwin, the General Services Administration's director of FirstGov, said there is a gray area between what constitutes advertising and what doesn't.

'When an agency said their Web site is powered by Google, is that advertising?' asked Godwin, who also participates in the Web content working group under the Interagency Committee on Government Information. 'We are just starting to look at these issues.'

Godwin said a number of agencies have partnerships with private sector companies, and clarity is needed on whether mentioning the firms would be considered advertising.

Title 44 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations prohibits agencies from accepting advertising on their Web sites.

The working group likely will make recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget on how to deal with these issues as a part of setting standards for federal public Web sites, said Sheila Campbell, co-chairwoman of the working group.

The ICGI executive committee sent seven suggestions to OMB in June for Web site standards. OMB must release by Dec. 17 a policy based on these recommendations as mandated by the E-Government Act of 2002

The law required OMB to set ICGI up to deal with Web site standards, content management and electronic records management issues.

The working group also is developing a toolkit for Web content mangers. The site, which will be available later this month, will provide guidance, references, self-assessment tools, agency discussion forum and best practices, Campbell said.

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