Should Brands Be Responsible For What Their Customers Tweet?

If I tweet something inappropriate to a brand, who is responsible? The obvious answer would be me, but in the fast-changing world of online advertising, things are never that simple.

A new ruling from the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau raises the question of responsibility when it comes to the content that brands and consumers put out there on social media.

Relating specifically to Facebook, this ruling states that brands are responsible for everything that’s posted on their Facebook Page, including comments from other Facebook users.

Speaking to the Herald Sun, the ASB explained that their advertiser code of conduct now applies to a brand’s Facebook page, and everything posted to it:

“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.”

Now, imagine if this ruling were extended to Twitter. How much of a headache would it be for brands to have to not only monitor and respond to customer tweets, but also try and delete offensive or troll-ish comments.

On Facebook, brands can delete comments on their page pretty easily. Since brands have direct control over their page as administrators, this means they can police it for content and get rid of inappropriate posts. However, this isn’t the way Twitter works: brands don’t have control over the tweets of others, even when they are @mentioned within the tweet itself.

Perhaps one day Twitter will roll out the functionality for anyone tagged in a tweet to delete that tweet, or at least hide it from their @mentions folder. But for now, this type of ruling would be a nightmare for advertisers to try to comply with on Twitter.

Part of the reason the ASB decided that brands were responsible for the content their fans posted on their Facebook Pages was because of a Smirnoff Page that had a large amount of vulgar, obscene and sexually suggestive posts on it. If Smirnoff was encouraging these types of posts, it stands to reason that they should be at least partly responsible for them.

Still, each individual who posted made the decision to write that offensive comment and put it on the Smirnoff Page. So who should really be held responsible?

Do you think advertisers should do a better job of monitoring and sanitizing the social media content related to their brand? Or is it up to each individual to be held responsible for what he or she tweets, posts and uploads? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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