Facebook User Comments Can Amount to False Advertising, According to Australian Ad BoardBy: Josh Wolford - August 6, 2012
If you run a brand page on Facebook, you may have to pay a little more attention to the kinds of comments that your fans are leaving on your posts.
In Australia, the Advertising Standards Board (an arm of the Advertising Standards Bureau) is responsible for investigating complaints into ad practices in the Australian media. In a decision that could have far-reaching implications for brands on Facebook, the Board has determined that ad standards apply to comments posted by users on Pages. If you can’t say it on TV or the radio, Facebook users can’t say it on your brand page.
As the Sydney Morning Herald puts it, the decision makes it abundantly clear that “Facebook is an advertising medium – and not just a way to communicate.”
In short, companies must be extra vigilant in removing comments on their pages that violate ad standards. Comments that are racist, obscene, or factually inaccurate fall into this category.
The case before the Advertising Standards Board involved Smirnoff (vodka). They were accused of violating standards with sexist, obscene Facebook content that also promoted underage drinking. While the Board let the complaint slide, part of their ruling stated clearly that the country’s advertising laws applied to all the content on one’s social media page – not just the stuff that the company generated.
So, in the future, companies could be liable for misleading claims posted to their Facebook pages. Let’s say someone left a comment saying that Taco Bell’s beefy 5-layer burrito is the most healthy fast food item out there, and that he lost weight and stayed in shape by eating six a day – Taco Bell would be responsible for removing the comment because it is false advertising.
For brands, this could be a harder task than you think. For big brands, thousands upon thousands of comments can pur in, and policing all of them for content that violates ad practices could be a full-time job – for multiple people.