The Communications Councils has verified that the Advertising Standards Board’s (ASB) controversial ruling of last month that third-party comments on Facebook pages be deemed ads do in fact make them subject to the industry’s codes of ethics.

The Council says the classification of branded Facebook pages as ‘a marketing communication tool’ which falls under self-regulatory codes, including the AANA Code of Ethics, provides clarity for agencies and their clients as to their responsibilities to moderate comments posted by the public.

Margaret Zabel, CEO of the Communications Council confirmed that the ASB can rule on whether the content is in breach of the codes, irrespective of whether the posts are authored by the brand owner or by members of the public.

“The Board noted that the Facebook site of an advertiser is one over which the advertiser ‘has a reasonable degree of control’ and therefore requires monitoring ‘to ensure that offensive material is removed within a reasonable timeframe’,” Zabel says. “The Board’s determination suggests it realises the challenges posed by this medium are greater than traditional advertising mediums and the fact that total control is beyond the scope of advertisers. We have initiated discussion with the AANA and the Board to establish what constitutes a reasonable timeframe so that we have clarity and certainty on this issue.”

According to the Council, the ASB’s ruling is consistent with the premise that advertisers and agencies should operate in the spirit of the self-regulatory codes in a way that is platform neutral.

As the landscape continues to shift, the Council predicts more cases of self-regulation adapting to continually reflect community standards will emerge.

The Communications Council provides training for members in the area of social media legal and ethical issues.