There’s been some confusion around User Comments regarded as advertising for some time.
And for good reason. Back in November last year the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) released their best practice guidelines which stated that comments made by the public on a brand’s Facebook page are, in effect, ads and fall under the responsibility of the brand owner.
‘ the AANA is advising brand owners to monitor social media sites in the hours immediately following a post and at least once every 24 hours during the week, as well as on the weekend or public holidays if the brand’s community are likely to be particularly active out of business hours.’
I saw the AANA guide as a knee jerk reaction to the Allergy Pathway ruling.
‘In his judgment, Justice Finkelstein wrote: “While it cannot be said that Allergy Pathway was responsible for the initial publication of testimonials (the original testimonials were posted by consumers on Allergy Pathway’s Twitter and Facebook pages), it is appropriate to conclude that Allergy Pathway accepted responsibility for the publications when it knew of them and decided not to remove them.”
The IAB best practice guidelines directly contradict the AANA’s advice
‘Based on a careful analysis of existing laws and regulation and industry practice, the IAB believes that user comments directed towards an organisation or social media platform, or to other users who are drawn to a particular organisation, do not constitute advertising.’
‘There is a real risk that organisations who treat user comments as advertising will err on the side of caution and moderate user comments very conservatively, which will adversely impact their presence on social platforms and which arguably undermines the very spirit under which social media thrives.’
Signatories to the new guidelines include the IAB Australia membership which includes major online players such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Mi9, and Media Mind as well as industry organisations including AIMIA. I was delighted to see our friends and associates Quiip listed as contributors to the document.
IMHO sanity prevails
The IAB guidelines outline the legal treatment of user comments that needs to be considered under Australian Consumer Law and enforced by the ACCC.
They also make best practice recommendations on moderation, crisis management, soliciting response on social media and the requirements to review social media pages.
Summary of best practice recommendations
1. Develop moderation guidelines and publish them on your social media property so that your community is very clear about how behaviour is being managed (see Appendix B for examples of issues to include in your moderation policy). Feel free to build on the platform’s community guidelines and acknowledge that the platform operator also has the right to delete user comments which are found to violate the site’s terms of service.
2. Consider developing an internal moderation schedule, appropriate to your resourcing levels, which identifies who is moderating which social media properties and at which times. This is particularly useful for organisations sharing moderation responsibilities with external agencies or outsourced moderation businesses.
3. Develop a crisis management plan in the event that an issue arises on your social media platform which needs escalating. This may be as simple as using a flow chart to identify who in your organisation should be alerted about an issue, but could also bring in external stakeholders such as law enforcement agencies, child protection agencies, youth counselling services etc.
4. Moderate the user comments on your branded social media properties to the extent your resources allow. At a minimum, it is good practice for you to review and moderate recently published comments at the same time as posting a new comment.
5. If you don’t have the resources within your organisation to moderate user comments, or your internal risk analysis has deemed your use of social media platforms to be high risk, consider hiring a specialist moderation business that have all the necessary clearances and are well versed in conflict management and jurisdictional matters.
6. If you are directly soliciting a response or the creation of user generated content in relation to a provocative or edgy question posted on your social media channels which is likely to elicit controversial responses, ensure you have adequate resources to take extra care to review all responses and any provided user generated content promptly.
7. If your business or product is directed towards children, be aware that there may be specific legal or regulatory requirements that you need to meet, and you should employ moderators who have been through a working with children check or police check and who are trained to identify suspicious behaviour which could be indicative of grooming or other predatory behaviour.
8. Regularly review the tools that are available to you when you develop a presence on social media and consider which tools are appropriate for you to implement (e.g. alcohol brands should always use age gating tools to prevent access by under 18s).
9. Provide feedback to the platform operators around how the tools work and any suggestions for improvement.
There’s lots of useful information in this guide…. download link or read on: