Social media ruling in Smirnoff case sends shudders throughout Australia

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 6th August 2012

The Australian Advertising Standards Board has ruled that a Facebook page can be considered a ‘marketing communication tool’ when used by an advertiser. Accordingly it falls within the jurisdiction of the Advertiser Code of Ethics for industry complaints.

This throws the onus upon all companies to regulate all content that appears on a promotional Facebook site, including what is written by other Facebook users, to ensure it is in compliance with the Advertiser Code of Ethics. By extension, other social media website pages will be equally governed by this new approach.

The ruling came after a complaint was lodged in relation to the official Smirnoff Vodka Facebook page.  The complaint raised concerns of apparently ‘fan’-generated obscenity, sexism, racism, and depictions of irresponsible drinking, and argued that Diageo, Smirnoff’s parent company, had an obligation to control the activity of its fans on the Smirnoff Facebook page.

The Advertising Standards Board decided that the page was not in breach of the Advertiser Code of Ethics. The Board nevertheless said that the webpage was subject to it.

The ruling means it now becomes a requirement for companies to ensure contributors to their social media pages post no sexist, racist or factually inaccurate statements.

Link to ruling