Businesses With Facebook “Fan” Pages Beware – It is Possible You Can Become Liable For Comments by Others In Social Media…
With a recent publication stating that an average internet user spends more time on Facebook than on Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Microsoft, Wikipedia and Amazon combined, it is hardly surprising that Facebook has become a tremendously powerful marketing tool for businesses of all types and sizes.
Businesses are able to create a “fan site” for their business by attracting as many users as possible to either “join” or “like” their fan site thereby obtaining more network coverage across different users. The members of the fan sites are able to freely comment on the business with little control of the content that gets posted up on their “wall”.
You might think, therefore, that a business would not be held liable for any statements posted by the members which are misleading or deceptive, defamatory or which breach anti-discrimination legislation. You will be surprised to know that a recent Federal Court case held that, in certain circumstances, your business can be liable.
The ACCC brought proceedings against a company trading as Allergy Pathway which is in the business of treating and curing allergies. Some clients of Allergy Pathway posted testimonials about company products on Allergy’s Facebook “fan” page which were held to be misleading and deceptive.
Allergy Pathway argued that they should not be held liable for the publication of these testimonials because they had neither written the testimonials, nor posted them on their Facebook “fan” page.
The Federal Court found that they were liable because:
- Allergy Pathway and its directors knew about the existence of the testimonials on their Facebook “fan” page; and Allergy Pathway had the ability to remove the misleading and deceptive testimonials but did not do so.
Lessons from the case
If your business has a Facebook “fan” page, or any other social media platforms that allow users or your clients to post comments or texts in relation to your business, it is worth taking measures to monitor these comments on a regular basis to ensure that nothing appears which is misleading or deceptive, defamatory, or potentially discriminatory.
Although you may have no control over what is posted on these websites, if you are able to monitor the sites, and have the ability to remove inappropriate comments, ultimately it is your business that may be liable if you do not do so.
Contact a member of our Commercial Law Team if you need help with your social media policies.
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