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Increased need to monitor user generated content?

24 August 2012
The Australian authorities appear to be cracking down on consumer generated content on companies' branded Facebook pages. The Australian Advertising Standards Board has ruled that everything that appears on a company or brand's Facebook page is "advertising" and therefore must comply with advertising rules, including comments posted by members of the public. Commenting on the ruling, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said that it expects larger companies to take down any misleading or false comments about a product or service (whether theirs or a competitor's) posted by consumers on the company's Facebook page within 24 hours, or face possible legal action. So Australian companies now have a clear steer that they are expected to monitor closely any comments posted by the public on their pages and remove non-compliant content.

 In the UK, the CAP Code was extended on 1 March 2011 to cover marketing communications in online space under an advertiser's control, including social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. So, consumer generated content on companies' branded Facebook pages is already regulated. However, while the Advertising Standards Authority has investigated plenty of cases under the CAP Code relating to Facebook and Twitter content produced by advertisers, to date advertisers have not been challenged over content posted by consumers.  

While this could suggest that UK advertisers are already actively monitoring and taking down content, UK advertisers are often reluctant to do so for fear of increasing the likelihood of being held liable for any content that is defamatory, discriminatory or infringes a third party's intellectual property rights. The developments in Australia could signal the start of a wider change in attitudes by regulators as to who is responsible for consumer generated content posted at the instigation of an advertiser and what steps advertisers are expected to take to remove non-compliant content.

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