On 26 November 2012, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) released a best practice guideline (Guideline) on how the AANA Codes apply in the digital space.  This follows determinations of the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) regarding liability for user generated content on Facebook (we previously posted about this here).

The Guideline applies to material which is “under the reasonable control of the marketer”, and includes brand and user generated content on social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn etc, mobile apps, brand websites, banner ads and SEM/SEO.

The Guideline suggests that while moderation of user generated content will differ by marketer and brand, based on the digital platform and level of engagement, brand owners who are actively interacting and participating on a digital platform should consider (amongst other things):

  • moderating immediately after, and for at least two hours following any post or engagement by the brand on the platform;
  • otherwise moderating at least once every business day (and on non-business days if the brand has a high level of activity/customer engagement); and
  • increasing moderation during periods of increased engagement and monitor spikes in traffic in making future decisions about moderation.

A copy of the Guideline is available online here.

The suggestion that “brands should moderate immediately after posting or engaging and for at least two hours following the post”  appears relatively onerous for brands, in terms of time, cost and resourcing.  The nature of many digital platforms encourages instantaneous communication with customers. Given this context, the suggestion appears to require almost constant moderation of all new posts and comments throughout the day.  However, the AANA’s media release about the Guideline appears to narrow this requirement a little, by suggesting that brand owners monitor their social media sites in the hours immediately following a “brand communication that is likely to elicit consumer responses”.  This may be a more measured and realistic approach, but it may in turn require brands to ascertain whether a post or comment by them is likely to elicit consumer responses.

Brands and, in particular, the online publishers of a brand’s social media content should also carefully consider the way in which more frequent moderation cuts across legal risks in other contexts such as defamation law – where there are complex questions about the availability of defences such as innocent dissemination if an extensive moderation approach applies.  It will be interesting to watch advertisers and the ASB grappling with this new Guideline, in their ongoing compliance with a myriad of social media terms and conditions, as well as legal rules and regulations.  Watch this space.