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Warning on Facebook jibes

Face value: Comments by Facebook ‘friends’ sometimes are not so friendly.

Big companies face scrutiny on social media comments if they don’t police them

General News logo13 Aug 2012

MOTOR companies are checking their social media protocols after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned that large companies could face court action under vilification or consumer protection laws if offensive or false comments on pages such as Facebook were not removed within 24 hours.

The warning by the ACCC came just days after the Advertising Standards Bureau ruled that social media pages such as Facebook were a form of advertising and therefore bound by the same rules governing content.

A quick scan of such Facebook forums today turned up several comments that might breach the advertising code, including one describing a TV advertisement by the car company as “the gayest video ever”.

Ford Australia, which famously highlighted Facebook in its television commercials for its diesel Territory SUV by filming an engineer setting out to visit all her Facebook friends on one tank of fuel, is one company that is re-examining its social media controls.

Ford public affairs director Sinead Phipps told GoAuto that such forums attracted a lot of banter from car fans, sometimes with remarks targeting other brands.

She said such comments could be difficult to police and erase in less than 24 hours as reportedly required by the ACCC.

“What if someone posts something at nine o’clock on a Friday night?” she said. “We don’t know how we are going handle it yet.”

GM Holden social media and digital communications manager Andrea Matthews told GoAuto that her company had strict guidelines on such public postings for its “family friendly” social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

She said the Holden “social media team” regularly checked comments from members of the public and removed inappropriate postings.

Although the Holden team members were not officially on duty at weekends to moderate comments, they regularly checked comments at those times anyway and deleted those that did not meet community standards.

“We are always on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter,” she said.

The issue arose after the Alcohol Advertising Review Board was asked to investigate a complaint about comments uploaded by members of the public on Facebook pages for alcohol brands Smirnoff and VB.

In its determination, the board said: “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.”

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