Posts on commercial Facebook pages are advertising Australian SRO rules
In a groundbreaking decision, the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau, ruled that comments by members of the public, are to be regarded as advertisements for the brand behind the page.
This means that all comments on commercial Facebook pages must comply with industry self-regulation and consumer protection laws.
The ASB ruling was provoked by a complaint against the Smirnoff Vodka Facebook page. A complainant alleged that comments posted on Smirnoff’s page were offensive, sexist and depicted underage and irresponsible drinking.
Although the ASB dismissed the specific complaint, it decided that comments posted on Facebook fit the definition of advertising:
“any material which is published or broadcast using any medium or any activity which is undertaken by or on behalf of an advertiser or marketer and over which the advertiser has reasonable control and draws the attention of the public calculated to promote … a product [or] service …”
According to the ASB, commercial companies have the technical capability to moderate user comments that are published on their Facebook pages and have an obligation to make sure that these comply with the consumer protection laws and regulations governing advertising.
The apparent consequence of the ruling, for organisations who participate in the ASB's self-regulation scheme, is that they are now required to moderate all comments by individuals on their brand and corporate Facebook pages, other social networks, blogs, wikis, forums and social media channels in which they have the technical ability to do so.
The basis for this ruling was a recent legal decision:
“The view that brands are responsible for consumer created content on their social media pages has been supported by a recent decision of an Australian Federal Court (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd (No 2)  FCA 74)1 that a health company was responsible for Facebook and Twitter comments by fans on its account in defiance of a court order that the company not make misleading claims about its allergy treatments The Federal Court concluded that Allergy Pathway was responsible for third-party comments where it knew of them and made a decision not to remove them from its Facebook page”.