IAB clashes with regulator over Facebook fan comments ruling

15/08/2012

Online trade body the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia has criticised a regulator's decision to hold advertisers responsible for content on social networks. The organisation representing online advertising has questioned the decision by the advertising watchdog to make businesses liable for comments made on their Facebook pages claiming the ruling will be a burden and “hurt” the development of social media.

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Last week, the Advertising Standards Board ruled that a Facebook brand page is an advertisement in a case involving a successful complaint filed against VB, a beer brewed by Fosters, and another regarding Smirnoff, Diageo's vodka line, which was dismissed.

It looked at whether questions posed by VB and the resulting user comments, and photos uploaded by Smirnoff and replies from consumers, were overly sexual, discriminatory, contained inappropriate language or promoted irresponsible drinking.

The judgment states that comments made by ''fans'' of a brand's Facebook page were ads and must therefore comply with industry self-regulatory codes and therefore consumer protection laws.
Many large brands use the social media site in order to advertise and get free referrals.
Although the ruling is limited to brands in Australia, its impact could be far-reaching if advertising boards across the world adopt a similar stance to the comments made on brand’s Facebook pages.

IAB Australia director of regulatory affairs, Samantha Yorke, said: “Businesses who use social media platforms to promote their products and services should consider their options for moderating user generated comments on their pages to manage the image and reputational risks associated with negative user expressions. This risk assessment and any resulting actions undertaken by businesses are best left to businesses to determine on a case by case basis.”

“The global industry standard for social media platforms when managing abuse on their services is ‘notice and take down’. This involves social media platforms and businesses with social media pages promptly investigating reports of abuse and taking appropriate action – such as taking the content down. In addition, there are a range of other tools that these platforms make available to businesses to assist them in their efforts to manage user comments on their pages such as word filters, age gating, and the ability to ban users.

“Social media platforms encourage users to report any objectionable comments using the reporting or escalation tools available on each site and this is the fastest way to make the platform aware of unlawful content and get it taken down."

“The global industry standard for social media platforms when managing abuse on their services is ‘notice and take down’. This involves social media platforms and businesses with social media pages promptly investigating reports of abuse and taking appropriate action – such as taking the content down. In addition, there are a range of other tools that these platforms make available to businesses to assist them in their efforts to manage user comments on their pages such as word filters, age gating, and the ability to ban users.

“Social media platforms encourage users to report any objectionable comments using the reporting or escalation tools available on each site and this is the fastest way to make the platform aware of unlawful content and get it taken down,” said Yorke.

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