Facebook advertisers to be held legally responsible for public comments

An Australian court has ruled that comments posted by members of the public on Facebook advertisements should themselves be classed as advertisements – potentially forcing the advertiser to vet the comments.

Australia’s Advertising Standards Board ruled that posts made on Smirnoff’s Facebook page must comply with advertising laws – upending Facebook’s financial model and opening a can of worms as comments posted globally can all be viewed in Australia.

This leaves companies liable to being sued if they allow content which makes false claims about a product or includes racist or sexist language to appear on their pages.

Analysts predict that the Australian ruling could just be the tip of the iceberg with a flood of similar rulings expected from other jurisdictions.

Chris Watson, a partner at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, said: “There used to be no downside to advertising on Facebook. Now the free lunch is over and reality has intervened. Companies have to take responsibility”.

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