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Companies held accountable for Facebook comments

Businesses using Facebook will have within 24 hours to moderate user comments or face strict penalties, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has revealed.

After the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau (AASB) ruled that public comments on corporate Facebook pages count as advertising, the ACCC says it expects businesses to react to comments within a day.

The landmark decision in Australia means comments making claims about a product that are false, racist, sexist or defamatory could lead to legal action towards the advertiser.

The judgement follows complaints about comments maintained by Carlton United Breweries promoting its Victoria Bitter brand and a Smirnoff vodka promotional page.

Such comments were deemed as advertising by the AASB irrelevant of whether they were made by the company or the public.

“The Facebook site of an advertiser is a marketing communication tool over which the advertiser has a reasonable degree of control,” said the AASB at the timing of ruling.

As a result of the new Facebook classification for businesses, the ACCC says that user comments could count as a breach of ethics with a 24 hour period for moderation.

“If you are a big corporate player with lots of resources that's putting a lot of effort into social media then it wouldn't have to be too long. Perhaps 24 hours or less,” says Sarah Court, ACCC commissioner to Fairfax Media.

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