Are Your Social Media Posts Breaking The Law?

Social media has a huge impact on the world and it’s no wonder that a large majority of businesses within the construction industry are incorporating aspects of social media in order to promote their brand and reach out to their target markets. However – how can you be sure that you’re playing by the rules?

With thousands of tweets, posts and blogs being sent out daily it can be hard to keep track of the ever-changing protocols in terms of what you can say and to whom it can be targeted at. The ‘Marketing and Advertising Law’ covers most of these rules and these standards include, but aren’t limited to things such as: description, legality and social responsibility. More specifically the Law is broken down into two sections; Broadcast and Non-Broadcast media, which makes it more applicable on a wider scale.

The Committee of Advertising Practice code has rules covering non-broadcast advertising within the UK, for example; print, online, telesales and emails. This code specifies standards that all businesses must stick to, including specific circumstances.

As well as a general Law there are also more specific guidelines for each platform, i.e. Twitter and Facebook, that cover issues such as: restricted products/content, copyright and accuracy etc. For example, posts must represent the object being advertised as well as the company and must not include prohibited content.

To summarise, here is a list of the standard DO’s and DONT’s that you must abide by when using both Facebook and Twitter:

Do

  • Make sure that your adverts are honest about the product/service offered and that detailed purchase information is provided.
  • When collecting user information, your privacy policy must explain what data is collected and how it will be used.
  • Include your privacy policy if a page asks users to enter confidential information and use a secure process server.
  • Create your own content or gain permission from the user whose content you have included.
  • Set high editorial standards for the content of any Ads you create.
  •  Set high standards for any off-site links or connections that you include.

 

Don't

  • Advertise illegal goods/services.
  • Advertise unsafe/deceptive products/services.
  • Encourage users to share login details or post spam.
  • Promote adult or sexual products/services.
  • Promote endangered species products or hate content.
  • Promote spyware or illegal hacking products.
  • Promote unauthorised ticket sales or weapon accessories.
  • Promote political campaigning.
  • Include another individual’s content in a Twitter Ad without their permission.
  • Spam users repetitively or consistently.
  • Target a trending topic unless your tweets are relevant.

 

If you are seen to have broken regulations then you could be reported to either a Local Trading Standards office, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) or, depending on the severity, you could be fined, prosecuted and even imprisoned.

A recent adjudication was made in regards to GiffGaff, a mobile telephone network, and a tweet that had been released on the company twitter feed linking to a promotional video. The video features a man, who has just returned from a run, walking into a house wearing a damp t-shirt and some headphones. The man opens a door to reveal a couple being intimate then cuts back to the man’s reaction before cutting to a blank screen. The caption ‘At home with your parents you’re not the boss… At GiffGaff we’re all the boss’ is then displayed across the screen.

Complaints were made against the video due to the sexual nature that viewers felt may cause widespread offence and as a result, the advert complaints were upheld by the ASA. The tweet itself was considered more offensive and in breach of regulations due to the business nature of the twitter handle and the large following that they have on the social media site.

All companies are expected to be aware of these protocols, especially when advertising, in order to comply with the ASA. If in doubt, check that what you are uploading doesn’t reference anything that’s illegal or uncouth. For a briefer overview of the governed law, visit here.

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