Uh Oh: Are Companies Now Responsible for Facebook Trolls?

In news that may lead to a PR hiring blitz, an Australian court has ruled that everything posted on a company’s Facebook page qualifies as an advertisement and may be viewed as such in the eyes of the law.

The ruling implies that Facebook PR is no longer a risk-free venture: Your company may be held legally responsible for everything posted on your page, and that includes whatever false, misleading or otherwise offensive comments your followers happen to feel like posting. In other words: yikes.

And don’t start thinking that this ruling will only apply Down Under: The Advertising Standards Board has declared that companies may be held liable for third-party content on their Facebook pages just as if it had been penned by their own agency copywriters. Libel laws are viral, and web pages are visible all over the world. Experts expect similar rulings to follow.

The case in question involved Smirnoff Vodka, which is an Australian company (!), and the judge’s ruling implied that any comments claiming that the company was Russian or that its product could lead to more attention from the opposite sex could be construed as false advertising. Bit of a stretch? Apparently not.

Get ready to write a job description for “Facebook Comment Moderator.” Already have one of those? Hire another. Then stay tuned and brace yourself. In the meantime, check out AllFacebook for another take on the story.

Will this ruling hurt Facebook’s status as the biggest branding game in town? Or is it a simple case of judicial overreach?