Australian Advertising Watch Group Says Companies Are Responsible For Comments On Their Facebook Pages
from the no-they-freaking-aren't dept
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.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 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."
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.