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Firms Responsible For Facebook Comments

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Wednesday August 15, 2012 )

If you work for a large (or small) Australian company with a Facebook page, here’s some important information.

It appears big(?) companies are now liable for comments on their Facebook pages and must zap false and misleading comments left by their fans (or otherwise) within 24 hours or face potential court action.

This applies to comments relating to a company’s own products or a competitor’s. Apparently the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the nation’s consumer watchdog, considers these comments as advertising.

While the article refers to large companies, I’m *guessing* that was in relation to takedown time; i.e. that the general principle applies to any business (that’s worthwhile gaining clarification on), but the ACCC’s expectations re: reaction time are more lenient for smaller businesses.

Still, whatever the situation, it’s now adding an extra responsibility.

As unfair as it seems, it was probably a long time coming. Freedom of speech has gotten a little out of hand on the web; purely because those of us who run sites or operate/participate in services that allow for user generated content haven’t done very well in keeping it under control – either out of laziness, lack of time, fear of user backlash, etc. etc.

Let’s face it; so much of what is posted on the web is just, well, crap.

Add to that merchants who pose as customers to write glowing comments about their own products, or dumping on a competitors and the web has become a bit of a cesspool. Search for reviews on any sort of product and in among them will be these sorts of posts.

Freedom of speech is unfortunately often confused with freedom from responsibility.

So it’s been a case of “if you can’t self-regulate, we will regulate you” – and we haven’t, so they (the government) have.

Censorship is unfortunate – and in this case it’s going to be expensive in terms of the resources needing to be spent on moderation – but until our species evolves and merchants stop confusing good marketing with lying; it’s going to be necessary. So, in other words.. likely forever.

I wonder if the same rules will apply to company blogs and forums. The problem with all this is if a customer/fan/whatever makes a mention of a truly crooked company and that company gets their knickers in a knot, it seems to me it will be quite easy for them to have that comment removed by rattling the ACCC sabre.

Anyway, I can see some companies being scared off from using Facebook and perhaps blogging due to all this – but there is an option (and I don’t mean not having a Facebook presence). Simply turn off comments – use Facebook or blogs purely as a broadcast platform.


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