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ACCC 24-Hour Facebook Warning

ACCC 24-Hour Facebook Warning

Last week, the Ad Standard Bureau ruled brands with Facebook pages must censor public and company generated  comments and ensure social network pages do not contain misleading information.

Company social network pages are now deemed part of a marketing campaign and must be regulated accordingly.

Companies will now even have to police consumer-to-consumer exchanges on their Facebook pages.

“If you become aware that a member of the public [has written something inaccurate], you have a responsibility to correct the impression” said ACCC commissioner Sarah Court. Court reckons larger companies should do this within a 24 hour period. 

This comes after an investigation into the Facebook pages of VB and Smirnoff brands by the Advertising Standards Bureau, which found the companies were responsible for offensive public comments made, which were found to be sexist, racist and encouraging irresponsible drinking.

The rules relating to Facebook and social media comments have been in place for some time by the ACCC, the body responsible for investigating false and misleading ads, following a separate ruling involving online testimonials posted by Allergy Pathways found to be deceptive.

The company was fined $7500.

However, the penalties for Facebook infringements will depend on a case by case basis, an ACCC spokesperson told SmartHouse.

Violations of the new rules will be dealt in the same way as misleading ads, meaning companies found in breach could face panalties of thousands of dollars.

Ad bodies are said to be meeting in the coming weeks to set up new guidelines. However, the new rules have angered companies as they now have the responsibility of censoring Facebook comments or else face the wrath of regulators.

Laurel Papworth, Lecturer Social Media, Uni of Sydney says the debate surrounding the issue is “interesting,” but notes:

“Only Facebook is faced with this ruling (not thousands of other company/customer sites such as Foursquare), Papworth notes, and is “concerned” about the development as companies must now act as censors on public commentary.
 

“If a customer is wrong and states that a product helped them which couldn’t possibly have helped them, or that they liked the Pink version when it’s actually Purple, the only recourse for a company is to remove the comment within 24 hours.”

However, the social media guru is now wondering “what is offensive” commentary?

“I am truly concerned that now companies are seen as media companies and must censor discussions by customers on their pages, we will see our basic human rights fly out the window,” she added.

The ACCC sees all Facebook interactions as “advertising” not “customer service,” she says.

In addition, the rules may be easy for a large company with mass resources and a dedicated Facebook team like Telstra, but could prove a huge headache for smaller companies tol police their pages.