Australian Advertising Watch Group Says Companies Are Responsible For Comments On Their Facebook Pages

from the no-they-freaking-aren't dept

Techdirt has dealt a great deal with how artists and companies should be connecting with their fans and customers and how an active community can increase the brand. We've also discussed the value of comments and commentors on websites and what they can mean for discussion and for business. But now, thanks to an Australian advertising watch group, we're presented with a question that intersects between the two: should a business community's comments be considered advertising?

The Australian details the story of how the Advertising Standards Bureau is releasing a report attacking Carlton & United Breweries over comments users posted to their Facebook pages. Like many companies, they have a presence on social media with which they engage their customers and ask deep, contemplating questions like "What's the next essential needed for a great Australia Day BBQ?" Personally, I would've answered with something involving marsupial-racing, but, in a turn of events nobody except everybody could have predicted, some user comments were what expert socialogists call "dick-ish." The ASB decided that these abhorrent comments qualified as the brewery's advertising:
"In a copy of the report obtained by Media, the ASB said comments left by people on the social network site constituted advertising, even though the company had not posted them.

The complaint to the ASB claimed that the Facebook page breached alcohol advertising guidelines by connecting alcohol with social or sexual prowess and promoted irresponsible drinking and excessive consumption."
Perhaps the folks at the ASB had had one too many Foster's, because in my dictionary the definition of advertising involves the company calling attention to a product or service in the hopes of gaining more customers. I'm not sure how user comments on a Facebook page fit that definition, but then again, I'm not insane. It'd be bad enough if this was some regular occurrence left completely unchecked by the brewery, but all along they had been checking the page twice a day to remove inappropriate comments. They were already self-policing, but the ASB still felt compelled to assign ownership of user comments to the brewery.

The concern, of course, is the way this is going to stifle brands jumping into social media. As we've discussed here many times in the past, the basic safe harbor protections from secondary liability are a large part of what makes the internet work. If the brewery is responsible for user comments to the degree that the ASB seems to be indicating, the liability and staff required to monitor comments won't be worth the exposure, and brands and fans alike will lose a valuable way to connect with one another.
""It would be unduly onerous on alcohol beverage producers and indeed any company participating in this medium to interpret the code as including user comments on Facebook pages as falling within the scope of 'advertising or marketing communications', since CUB does not have a reasonable degree of control over them," the company said."
And that results in the very antithesis of connecting with your fans/customers. Overly restrictive advertising regulations like this can only stifle business, all in the apparent attempt to pretend that some people aren't jerks. Let's hope that the ASB's report is struck down.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

    As a self proclaimed dick

    We're here, drink beer, get used to it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Torg (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Does the ASB have a Facebook page? I want to go connect alcohol with social or sexual prowess and promote irresponsible drinking and excessive consumption on it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

    Personal Responsibility

    Is it a bloody thing of the past?

    The only person who is responsible for what they post IS THE PERSON WHO POSTED IT.

    Honestly, it's not a hard thing to understand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Jollygreengiant (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    You can comment on their blog here http://blog.adstandards.com.au/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Nigel (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:02pm

    Booze causes the ASB to seemingly makes sense.

    Nigel

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    Re:

    This is not a terrible idea.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:05pm

    The concern, of course, is the way this is going to stifle brands jumping into social media.

    Is that really a concern? It seems like a minor benefit to me. The concern, of course, is over the broader implications on responsibility for user-generated content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    ike, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Not sure if you know this, but you can't actually get Foster's in Australia. It's an export only beer made locally. Here in Europe, it's made by Heineken.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foster's_Lager

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Timothy Campbell (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:25pm

    Impractical to Monitor

    Here in the USA the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A was castigated for (apparently) creating a sock-puppet account to respond to criticisms on Facebook pages. Once the sock-puppet was discovered her avatar was found to be a stock photo Chick-Fil-A was blamed for the action. But that has never been proven.

    I'm no fan of that restaurant, because they're making bigotry and intolerance a selling point, but I CAN entertain the possibility that they had nothing to do with the sock-puppet.

    I am also aware that some companies will pay below-minimum-wage workers to flood comment areas with a particular message. How do you prove this has happened? It's not that hard to obscure the truth.

    I don't think the Advertising Standards Bureau has really given this matter any deep thought.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:37pm

    Re:

    But....But....It's Australian for beer!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Personal Responsibility

    Why is techdirt posting stuff like this !!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 2:48pm

    'but then again, I'm not insane'

    you're also not Australian. what a strange bunch they are!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    PapaFox, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 3:15pm

    Get the facts, please

    Sorry folks, no story here. Move along.

    The ASB decided that:

    (a) A company's Facebook page was advertising;
    (b) That the company was responsible for the comments posted by sock puppets - accounts managed by or on behalf of the company.

    The complaint was that Carlton & United Brewery (a SAB Miller subsidiary) was breaching the "voluntary" advertising code which required it to promote responsible use of alcohol on its' Facebook page. It also turned out that many of comments were made by the public relations/marketing groups financed by CUB.

    The ASB ruled that both Facebook pages and sock puppet comments were advertising and subject to the code.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    chaos, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 3:31pm

    chaos

    If this is the case, I plan on putting as many insulting comments on the pages of companies or organizations I don't like. Then I'll call the police and ask them to be arrested. Good job dipshits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Mike42 (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 3:36pm

    Crazy people always say that

    but then again, I'm not insane.

    Are you sure about that? Are you?

    Are you?!?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Prashanth (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 3:58pm

    The only companies responsible

    The only companies and organizations responsible for comments on websites like their Facebook pages are the ones who see so many negative reviews that they close down comments and/or astroturf the comments like crazy. You know...like the ASB.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 4:38pm

    Re:

    That's funny, because I certainly remember seeing it when I was in Darwin. Admittedly, I didn't drink any, I stuck to the Victoria Bitters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 4:39pm

    Re:

    Yes it does.

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Advertising-Standards-Bureau/107905399237418?ref=ts

    I wonder, if we posted something against the rules, would they have to censor themselves?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Actually, it's Australian for fake.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    pyro, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 5:51pm

    Just so you know....

    Just so you know, nobody drinks Fosters in Australia. It's a horrible beer that we export :P More details here: http://www.epinions.com/content_1385209988?sb=1

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 9:00pm

    Re:

    Actually you can buy Fosters anywhere in Australia as long as it's not at a normal Pub.

    What I think you mean to say is that there are two versions of Foster's, one that is made overseas and one that is made locally.

    Personally (and around 85% of the beer drinking population of Aussies agree with me.. in other words all of us) the only difference between the offshore and onshore products is that the offshore one tastes a bit less like Dingo's Piss and more towards Emu piss. They are NOT an indication of good Aussie beers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Aug 7th, 2012 @ 9:07pm

    Re:

    hat a strange bunch they are!

    We are NOT strange, Nucking Futs absolutely and never normal, but strange? nope Japan holds the title of Strangest, with the USA and France coming in a close 2nd and 3rd

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2012 @ 10:53pm

    a companies facebook page IS a form of that companies advertising, that is the page in it's entirety, or ALL OF IT, user comments and all..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2012 @ 2:23am

    Re: Re:

    I reject the notion of 'good beer,' regardless from whence it comes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 8th, 2012 @ 3:26am

    Re:

    Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 8th, 2012 @ 3:27am

    Re: Personal Responsibility

    It's just like the Colorado shootings (and mAurora later if memory serves). They'll blame video games, violent movies, Jesus. But not the shooter. Pretty reasonable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2012 @ 5:51pm

    BTW, you can't buy Fosters here in Australia (you used to be able to, but it was very unpopular).
    It's sold overseas only, as an Australia beer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2012 @ 5:52pm

    Re:

    *Australian

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), Aug 8th, 2012 @ 8:06pm

    Face-whatever.

    It looks like the question in the first paragraph answered itself before it was asked: A corporate presence on a website meant to CwF can only be advertising. What the heck else is it?

    I would have to say that, now, yes, they are responsible for the comments because they are using fan-generated comments to reach other fans and promote the brand. So if they do not remove or address the comments(I prefer that they address such comments, as that would be more open and responsible, and a better demonstration of the "drink responsibly" culture they are supposedly on board with), then they should be held accountable for them.

    in my dictionary the definition of advertising involves the company calling attention to a product or service in the hopes of gaining more customers.


    That would cover all content appearing on their advertising FB page. Not very confusing at all. Internet social networking doesn't change anything here. What is so special about it? I don't care how "passively" the company is displaying consumer endorsement, it is advertising.

    Of course, I would say that they should have a reasonable amount of time to address such comments, and be given opportunity to review comments which someone (private or gov) reports as violating whatever rule or law.

    I would think that CwF by other sorts of ventures (artists and such) might apply such rules a bit differently: These are generally more personal connections and so is the fan commentary. (Well, and the rules governing advertising for controlled items are a bit different.) However, this doesn't mean various horrible comments should go unaddressed - this is bad for business anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Kevin (profile), Aug 8th, 2012 @ 8:29pm

    Beer for comment

    The anti everything mob are at it again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 9th, 2012 @ 4:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I thought it was Australian for "foetid dingo's kidney" :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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