Australia Rules that Brands are Responsible For User Comments on Facebook Pages

Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau has declared that page administrators are responsible for the contents of all page comments. Have you seen Internet comment boards? That’s a dangerous thing to be responsible for.

The ASB received complaints about comments on Smirnoff Australia’s Facebook page that were vulgar, obscene, promoted excessive drinking (On a Smirnoff page? Get out!) and talked about the role alcohol plays in sex. Who knew Australians were such prudes?

“The Board determined that the provisions of the Code apply to an advertiser’s Facebook page,” The ASB said in a statement to Australia’s Herald Sun. “As a Facebook page can be used to engage with customers, the Board further considered that the Code applies to the content generated by the advertisers as well as material or comments posted by users or friends.”

Page administrators have always been responsible for monitoring the content of user comments, but this ruling places an even heavier emphasis on monitoring comment posts.

While it makes sense that any comments on a company’s site will be affiliated with them, it’s ridiculous to place such a heavy burden on page administrators. Even the most vigilant admins can’t catch every vulgar, obscene, sexually suggestive or pro-drinking comment on their pages’ comment boards. It’s also wildly unfair to hold company’s accountable for anonymous Internet postings that they had nothing to do with creating. If every page admin was punished for the content of their pages’ user comments, there would essentially have to be war crime trials for virtually all of them. It’s an absurd contradiction to offer the privilege of anonymous commenting and yet insist that Internet comment boards conform to a high standard of conduct. And on a Smirnoff page, no less.

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