Advertisers on Facebook should take note of a recent Australian court ruling which says everything a fan posts on a company’s brand or fan page is the equivalent of an ad, and therefore must comply with all advertising laws.It means that brands in Australia must now vigilantly sweep their Facebook pages for trolls making false, misleading or inappropriate remarks, because legally a fan’s post is synonymous with a brand’s post.
That’s the kind of potential liability that could cause conservative marketers to throw up their hands and abandon Facebook, or at least turn off comments on their brand pages. Why bother with facebook, when all it does is create continual legal risk?
The ruling, by Australia’s Advertising and Standards Bureau, came after a complaint was filed against posts made to Smirnoff’s page, which is managed by Diageo and Profera, for showing too much “alcohol consumption with sexual or social prowess.” Even though the ASB ruled against the complaints, the decision stated that, “As a Facebook page can be used to engage with customers, the Board further considered that the Code applies to the content generated by the advertisers as well as material or comments posted by users or friends.”
John Swinson, a lawyer and partner at King & King Wood Mallesons, gave the example in the Telegraph that a commenter couldn’t write that Sirnoff was a pure Russian vodka that helped guys get lucky with the ladies since, “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.”
Although this ruling only applies to Australia, this could have implications in the United States.
Forbes conjectures, “This is how the libel laws were spread: Dow Jones was found liable for a libel of an Australian in something published in New York. But because it could be read in Australia then it was libel in Australia.”
Advertisers use “Likes” as social media currency. The whole point is to have lots of engaged fans. Big brands have more fans than can possibly be monitored. On August 2, for instance, this McDonald’s post about McCafe’s fruity summer drink menu got 1,173 comments (and counting).
Potential upside: There might be a hiring boom for Facebook moderators down under.
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