Last week I heard two prominent alcohol brands were in hot water by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ABS) for not monitoring their fan generated content. The fan generated content was deemed politically incorrect, misleading and discriminatory. Who should be held accountable for the inappropriate content? Well not the fan of course! That truck load of responsibility was lumped onto the shoulders of the advertiser. It’s on your page, so clean it up! The new ABS ruling deemed that a Facebook site is in fact a marketing communication tool and therefore advertisers are responsible for everything on it. The new ruling stipulates that brands are not only responsible for all their own pictures, comments and posts but for those of the user as well. I might also add that the advertisers have been given an unforgiving 24 hour window of opportunity to remove any unsuitable content.
As a Facebook user and fan of many advertisers’ Faceboook pages, I think the responsibility for my comments and my interactions should lie in my hands. I wouldn’t like to think that the validity or credibility of my social media comments is merely at the discretion of a company’s ‘Facebook Moderator’. Yes, yes everything we do on a social media platform needs to comply with their policies and local legislation that’s widely accepted but no one knows each and every clause in the policy they signed a few years ago. However, I do adhere to the basic principles of social etiquette; – that social everyday etiquette which should naturally extend to the ‘cyber world’. There is no need for politically incorrect, discriminatory or abusive comments in other mediums, so what makes ignorant social media users think it is okay to broadcast them in a public domain, such as Facebook?
With the exciting revolution that social media has brought into our lives over the last few years, the content and conversation developed between users and advertisers is invaluable. Advertisers can now easily and freely tap into the psyche of their existing and potential customers. They can engage us and we can respond online in a dialogue. We can speak up, share our product reviews, ask questions of the product or service, upload photos, leave our comments of satisfaction or dissatisfaction etc. All of which can be instantly shared between millions of people, at the click of a Facebook post.
However, now this open forum is not so ‘open’ anymore. The fast and accessible (often innocent) conversation between consumer and advertiser is ruled ‘an advertisement’. An advertisement subject to the list of ASBs’ regulations and is censored by the cyber moderators at ‘Advertiser H.Q’. This opens up a minefield of implications into how businesses manage and moderate their pages, particularly those who encourage a more liberal, informal community on Facebook. Who are the Facebook moderators and will they be equipped to discern what is and what isn’t ethical behaviour? It sounds like censorship to me. How many additional work hours will businesses need to ensure all content is moderated 24/7? What about those small businesses who cannot afford the additional cost?
Watch this space.