Facebook marketing – who is responsible for user contributions? – Part 1

Facebook is used by many medium-sized companies for marketing purposes. The desired result is that fans not only look at posts, but also share and/or comment. But what happens if a fan’s contribution is in violation of the law (e.g. an abusive or racist comment)? Can the company be held liable as the manager of the Facebook page?

Find out which contributions are considered external and whether there is an obligation to curate content in this guest article by Nina Mülhens, Public Relations & Social Media Manager at Gelbe Seiten Marketing Gesellschaft and author for Treffer!, the Gelbe Seiten (German Yellow Pages)blog.

No liability for external content

The German Broadcast Media Act (TMG) includes numerous internet regulations. § 10 stipulates that publishers of Facebook pages are not liable for external content. But what content is considered to be external depends on various factors.

First of all, it is important that external contributions be clearly recognisable as such. The name of the author should be clearly visible and the company logo should not be added to user images.

Content not generated by the company, its employees or commissioned service providers such as social media agencies is generally considered external. This applies to all articles written by fans. However, content is no longer considered external if the company embraces it as its own. This is the case when user statements are selected and uploaded by the company within the context of a contest for example. This content is considered your own even if the terms and conditions of the contest clearly indicate that user contributions could be used for commercial purposes even outside the context of the contest.

When are you required to inspect content?

By law, you are not required to verify external content on Facebook. In several situations, however, courts see the inspection of contributions as necessary. If third parties notify you of possible legal violations or if you have even received written notice, you should inspect the content in question.

You can assume that controversial comments will be posted on your page if you provoke them yourself by posting political or religious statements. Even if you have already deleted unlawful comments from your Facebook page, you are obliged to check the following posts and remove them as well if necessary.

[In the second part, you will learn at which point knowledge of illegal content exists and what the obligation to the delete content immediately actually entails.]

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