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Am I my brother's keeper?

Yes, you are. Well, according to the Advertising Standards Bureau in Australia, every brand present on social media platforms, in particular Facebook, are to be the keepers of all things posted on their sites and related to the brand... by everybody.
This stems from a case surrounding Australian Diageo's Smirnoff Facebook page, which apparently contained racist, sexist and other inappropriate and offensive comments.

The ASB has commented, "The board considered that the Facebook site of an advertiser is a marketing communication tool over which the advertiser has a reasonable degree of control and could be considered to draw the attention of a segment of the public to a product in a manner calculated to promote or oppose directly or indirectly that product. The board determined that the provisions of the Code apply to an advertiser's Facebook page. 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."

Yes, so far this is only the ruling of the advertising authority in Australia, but in our global village, it is only a matter of time before the world is consumed by this ruling and we all suffer the consequences.

Now, it could just be us being silly, but is it not an unreasonable request for brands to control anyone and everyone who speaks of or comments on their brand on Facebook? How does one control anybody who does not belong to the company, especially with regards to their speech?

It is blatantly obvious that brands no longer own brands - consumers own brands, especially on social platforms. Brands cannot be expected to control their consumers. Also, what would be the implications in the minds of consumers if brands started to dictate behaviour to their consumers?

Yes, brands can delete comments and block users, but what happens if a complaint is lodged before the brand is able to delete the offending comment? And what will this behavior from brands do to their bottom line? This type of thinking could end up costing brands both financially and in terms of their reputation.

This is a very slippery slope that we are getting ready to slide down.

Do we now hold brands responsible for the actions of people who use them incorrectly or negatively in everyday life? For example, what would happen if people started to commit crimes in the name of various brands? Would the criminals go to prison, or would the brand be held liable for the crime?

The question becomes, where will the ASB draw the line? Will it be on the side of reality or will they side with lunacy and when will the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa be jumping on the bandwagon?

7 Aug 2012 11:39

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