A Scenic Tour of the Online World

Social Media and The Regulatory Environment

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Yet another example of technology jumping out in front of regulatory bodies and the law, our friends at FKKS shared info on a recent FDA Enforcement Action. (Thanks to Jerry Spiegel.)

The FDA cited Novartis for their activities on Facebook. The Facebook share button allowed Facebook members to “post Novartis-created information about Tasigna® (“Shared Content”) on their Facebook profile walls.” (Profile walls in Facebook are viewable by members’ friends, so the information is, in effect, being broadcast to a members’ network.)

The FDA found a number of ways in which this is breaks regulations already in place, but they gave no indication of whether new regulations are in the offing.

It’s not surprising that regulatory bodies have begun more closely monitoring activities on social networks and other recently developed communications tools like blogs and Twitter. It seems safe to assume that the FTC, various financial regulatory agencies and other governmental watchgroups are doing the same.

It will be interesting to see what sort of self-policing might occur in an attempt to keep the regulators at bay. (Government agencies have had a notoriously bad track record understanding and sensibly regulating new technologies.)

As business people, we’ll need to watch carefully how we’re getting our message out there. Social media provide a great opportunity to avoid marketing clutter, but as more and more clumsy attempts are made at using social media for marketing, not only do they catch the attention of regulators, they lose the attention of consumers.

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