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Law school professors debate children’s food marketing guidelines

Professors say FTC’s guidelines don’t violate companies’ First Amendment rights

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission issued voluntary principles aimed to influence companies’ decisions when creating advertisements directed at children.

The issue of childhood obesity is as pressing as ever, and the commission hopes the new guidelines will encourage companies to self-regulate their advertising to minimize ads depicting foods that could negatively impact children’s health.   

While some experts say the guidelines hinder companies’ First Amendment rights, a group of law school professors responded to the new guidelines yesterday with a letter saying they are legal.

In the past, the Supreme Court has overturned government involvement in marketing regulations such as this on the grounds that it would constitute a violation of free speech.

But the Free Speech Clause, the professors wrote, “applies only to government mandates restricting or compelling private speech.” Because the nutrition guidelines for marketing to children are the speech of the government itself and do not restrict anyone else’s speech, the professors argue they should be accepted as permissible guidelines.

For more on this issue, see the Wall Street Journal.

Danielle Feinstein

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