Brands present on Facebook with dedicated fan pages are responsible for comments posted by users, watchdog claims. The social network is declared an advertising medium and not a way to establish a communication with customers.
All started when the Advertising Standards Bureau issued a judgment in which it said comments made by ”fans” of a vodka brand’s Facebook page were ads. In these conditions, they have to comply with industry self-regulatory codes and consumer protection laws.
John Swinson, partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons, stated that this ruling “turned people’s opinions into statements of facts”. He also offered a clear example. If a fan says that Smirnoff is the purest Russian vodka and leads to success with women, the company must remove that comment as Smirnoff is Australian not Russian. So that is false. It may not be the purest so that could also be misleading.
”And to imply that you would have greater success with girls would contravene the advertising codes,” added Swinson.
He also warned all of his clients that standards that regulate TV, radio and billboard advertising could apply now to third-party posts on Facebook pages.
A company is responsible for what an agency does in its name. Now, companies are responsible for what fans post on Facebook. And let’s not forget that becoming a fan on Facebook doesn’t necessary mean you like the brand. You can hate it and become a fan in order to denigrate it, to post racist, mean comments and thus to harm the brand.
True, on a Facebook page, comments that insult different categories or are misleading shouldn’t be allowed. But is any comment an ad? And how fast is fast enough in terms of time from the moment a comment is posted and the moment it is removed? As it happens, a company may be located somewhere, while fans are from everywhere in the world. If the administrator of the page sleeps for a few hours, is the company responsible (and inside the company the admin or the agency that manages the social media account) for not removing an inappropriate comment fast enough during that time frame? Many questions arise from this ruling. How would you answer?