Everything in moderation: why controversial Australian Standards Board decision on Facebook was the right call

It seemed like such a good idea: Peanuts vs Cashews. Grab a handful, pelt your mates and discover once and for all who’s the real ‘King of the Nuts’. Then things went wrong. A rogue peanut bounced off a lamp-post, caught a cycle courier and tossed him in front of a bus. Luckily the bus swerved, no one was hurt and they only took out a small building. Rogue accident, you wouldn’t read about it (mostly because it didn’t happen). But it could. And the question on the table after a recent Australian Standards Board decision that has put the onus on brands to manage their Facebook pages is where does the buck stop when social goes awry? 

Australian Standards Board stops the buck with brands.

The ASB ruling has generated lots of twitterings on the subject. Its argument is that any content on a brand’s Facebook page should be subject to the same rules as any other ad. And it’s the brands job to make sure they comply. I completely agree. It all came up because VB dropped a moderation ball somewhere between the marketing team and the agency. But rather than own the rogue posts and apologise, they pointed fingers at each other and tried to defend some of the drivel. Fail.

Less about censorship. More about sensible.

The interesting thing here is the Socialiati are all up in arms about the impractical nature of trying to moderate a groundswell of largely uncontrollable comments. Why? It will cost too much. And maybe that’s the big difference between ‘old media’ and ‘new media’—neither can really afford the rules, but some still have to follow them. And that’s a whole different post.

But the sky is not falling. There’s not a brand on the market that doesn’t want an active and interesting Facebook presence right now. Because it works. But the ASB ruling has spawned comments on Mumbrella that bash around notions of freedom of speech and censorship. I think that’s crap. I love living in a country where I can say what I like without fear or judgement. But I love it even more because there are rules. If I stand on my soapbox spouting unpleasantness at the top of my voice, it won’t be long before my “right to freedom of speech” is moderated by a society that doesn’t tolerate total nutters.

Tossing drunks from the party is host responsibility.

That’s the rules of any bar. If you stand by and let nutters do what nutters do you’re complicit in their actions. Bar owners get fined for it. If someone comes to a party at my place and I don’t like what they’re saying, I’ll ask them to leave: their fault. If they stand on my deck and shout abuse at my neighbours, that’s my problem and I’m at fault.

The ruling is good. It’s all in the moderation.

Don’t get me wrong. Most well-run Facebook properties moderate up the Ying Yang and are very effective. More importantly, most communities self-moderate and look after each other. But the bottom line is that someone put the party together. And with all the social media bucks flying around right now, one of them has to stop with the brand.

That’s what I reckon. What do you think?

  • Michael Goldthorpe is co-owner at Hunch. He believes that the ‘social’ in social marketing is the same as the one in ‘society’. Have fun and be nice because we’re all in this together.

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Michael Goldthorpe is Managing Partner at Hunch.

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