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Facebook page comments must pass advertising laws

Australia's Advertising Standards Board has ruled that fan comments left on Facebook pages must be treated as advertisements and comply with consumer protection laws.

Australia's Advertising Standards Board has ruled that company pages on Facebook are advertising and must comply with industry codes and laws.

Company Facebook pages must be monitored to ensure comments pass advertising standards. (Screenshot by Seamus Byrne/CBS Interactive)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Advertising Standards Board made a ruling in July that fan comments on Smirnoff's Facebook page were advertisements, and it was up to Smirnoff to ensure that all comments comply with industry self-regulatory codes, as well as consumer protection laws.

The complaint against the vodka brand, regarding sexism, language and under-age drinking, was dismissed, but the Board did rule that codes not only applied to what a company posts to its Facebook page, but also to all user-generated comments.

The Advertising Standards Board also recently fined health company Allergy Pathway for not removing misleading and deceptive "testimonials" from its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Media lawyer John Swinson said that the ruling "turned people's opinions into statements of facts" and warned that the standards that govern TV, radio and billboard advertising might now apply to third-party posts on Facebook pages.