Businesses get Facebook warning
Social media is now mainstream and businesses as well as individuals need to be wary of its legal ramifications.
The Advertising Standards Board has ruled that a company’s Facebook page set up to promote its brand or product is an advertisement, and must comply with all the rules and regulations that govern traditional forms of advertising.
Following that ruling, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warned large corporations that use Facebook to promote their products that they should take down misleading or inappropriate comments left by the public within 24 hours or less.
Many people post comments on a Friday evening or on weekends, so it would be wise for a company to maintain a watch on their social media beyond normal work hours.
The ACCC said small and medium sized businesses that have a Facebook page should monitor it at least every few days and take down anything posted that isn’t appropriate.
This includes any statement that is misleading or deceptive about the firm’s product.
The Federal Court recently fined a business that marketed allergy treatments and its director $7,500 each for failing to remove testimonial claims about its products on its website, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook that were false, misleading and deceptive.
Justice Finkelstein said that while it could not be proved that the company posted the glowing testimonials itself, the company failed to remove them when it knew they breached advertising standards.
“This outcome confirms that any business that decides to leave public testimonials or other comments on their Facebook or Twitter pages will be held responsible if they are false, misleading or deceptive,” Justice Finkelstein said.
Facebook says it will remove threats of violence, bullying, harassment, hate speech, claiming to be another person and will respect legal rights.
But there are more reasons for a business to closely monitor their Facebook page. Sadly, some individuals use the anonymity and distance of social media to post abusive, defamatory, racist, sexist and hate-filled attacks. Disgruntled employees or customers can post false and damaging complaints against a firm or people within the firm.
Consumer complaint websites set up to name and shame companies are mostly based overseas. While some may be fair comment, it can be very difficult or impossible to get these websites to take down unfair or even defamatory personal comments that hurt people’s businesses or livelihoods.
Increasingly victims are taking legal action for defamation against carriers of the offending websites if search engines fail to remove the links.
One Australian search engine has reportedly been successfully sued after it provided a link that incorrectly claimed a Melbourne man was part of the criminal underworld.