A recent decision of the Federal Court, together with several
recent rulings of the Advertising Standards Bureau
(ASB), have highlighted the need for businesses to
monitor their Facebook and Twitter pages to ensure any comments
posted by consumers or third parties do not breach advertising code
or consumer and defamation laws.
In a recent Federal Court decision a satisfied customer of a
natural health treatment sold by Allergy Pathway
(AP) posted on the wall of the AP Facebook fan
page a glowing, somewhat exaggerated testimonial regarding the
qualities and potential effect of the AP treatment. The testimonial
was found to be a misrepresentation and, although AP was not
responsible for the original publication, the Court found that AP
had accepted responsibility once it knew of the publication and
decided not to remove it. AP and its director each received a
monetary penalty and AP was required to publish corrective
After receiving an increasing number of complaints about
material posted or published on the Facebook and Twitter pages of
businesses, the Advertising Standards Bureau has determined that
the Facebook page of a business is a "marketing communication
tool over which the advertiser has a reasonable degree of
control" and is therefore a communication covered by the
Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics
(the Code). In the circumstances, it found that
the advertiser should monitor their relevant social media sites to
ensure offensive material is removed within a reasonable
The above determination was made following a complaint to the
ASB about the Fosters VB Facebook page which contained posts from
consumers or "fans" which included coarse language and
sexual references. The ASB determined that several of the comments
were discriminatory towards women, derogatory of homosexuals,
contained inappropriate sexual references, obscene language and
were a breach of the Code. Fosters agreed to remove the offending
comments, implement regular monitoring and language filters and to
remove any subsequently posted inappropriate comments.
Businesses are therefore advised to regularly monitor comments
posted on their Facebook or Twitter pages and to remove them if
they consider them to be a breach of the Code, or of consumer or
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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