Bigpond on Twitter is a legal issue

Alot of people have been talking about Bigpond on Twitter. Mostly people have been sticking the boot in. I think this was necessary, so that Bigpond knew that the current way they were using Twitter was incorrect.

However I think this problem cannot be fixed by a Marketer, it needs someone with a grasp on the laws behind online publishing. I think we should be using our social networks to find someone from the legal field who can help give clarification to Bigpond on the legality around the Spam Act. As far as I can see this could have major ramifications on Australian businesses who want to answer any problems from customers on social media sites.

As far as I can understand, BigPond monitoring and answering comments on Twitter is currently illegal. However I am not a lawyer so I do not know what this legislation actually means. All I know is that it has major implications on all Australian Marketers wanting to respond to people talking about their brands online.

Update: Zac Martin has had a look at the legislation, check out his post discussing the SPAM Act


Ben Shepherd said...

are they responding to people who aren't following them?

Zac Martin said...

@ Ben

I wonder if that's the definition of "consent".

But what about posting a comment on a blog or a YouTube video?

@ Julian

I hereby give you consent to post comments on blog, Twitter account and any other medium under a username of mine. :P

Granleese said...

It isn't spam. But it is a poor effort.

Their Tweets are either:
1. broadcasting (not spam)
2. replying to @user posts (also not spam).

My interpretation of the Act is @user is actually just a tag with a rule to syndicate 140 characters on that users page. It isn't sending them a direct message.

Having worked with BP in the past on their online comms I am sure the legal team spent a couple weeks triple checking the Spam Act before giving the tick of approval.

Still, it's no excuse for a really bad execution.

Anonymous said...

Julian, if you are correct this would open a can of worms for a lot businesses, not just Telstra.

Hummm...I need to read my copy of the spam act 2002 or was it 2003.

Gavin Heaton said...

Hey Jules ... I don't know that there is a "right" or a "wrong" way to use Twitter. There are, however, uses of communication that can activate community and encourage brand participation; and there are approaches that do the opposite. I think the @BigpondTeam were introduced fairly gently to robust and articulate brand conversation ;)

As to the legals ... I am sure that the Telstra legal team have been fully across this initiative. Who else would have come up with the trademark symbols in their early tweets?

Invoking the SPAM Act was a bit of a cop out ... but I understand where they are coming from. And managing the risk profile of a large brand in instant, publishable conversation is not without its challenges ... even so, as I said in my post, there are dozens of smart, engaged consultants out there now who could have been engaged to help accelerate Bigpond's foray. This is an accepted practice in the US -- I don't know why Bigpond don't put their big hands into their pockets and hire someone who can help them navigate the waters.

But, hats off to Mike, they are open to a bit of conversation ... and I wish them luck.

Julian Cole said...

Hey Ben, At the moment they are approaching people that are mentioning Bigpond in there twitter posts. So Yes they are responding to people who are not following them. Which is the big problem.

Hey Zac thanks for the consent on the comment, your post is also a step in the right direction to solving this problem.

Hey Granleese I have no doubt that the BP legal team had an eye on this one, I think they would have been extra cautious on what they told @bigpondteam was allowed to do.

I have got a feeling that their legal department are not experts in this part of the law.

If however it falls with the mistakes of the BP Marketing Department then Gavin Heaton’s, Katie Harris, Stephen Collins, Zac, Jye etc. have given Marketing Department the right questions to be taking back to the legal department.

Hey The Marketer I think this is an issue that we need to look further into. Maybe this is a point to your point on the shared intelligence of all the social media agency coming up with a solution.

Hey Gavin, as I kind of mentioned to Granleese, these conversations all needed to happen in case it did fall with the inexperience of the Marketing Department. However I think that as Marketers/consultants in this space we should of a good grasp of the laws in this area so that when we do have that conversation with the legal departments of these companies we have a answers. I do not think that I have seen anyone in Australia publish on this topic, do you know of anyone?

I would hope that when we do find this person that they would share their knowledge with the community so that we can reassure companies that they can get involved in these conversations and Bigpondteam does not stand as an example of why companies should not get involved in the social media space.

Anonymous said...

Julian, I'm glad you started the debate as it only takes a bad apple or SMM campaign go wrong and public perception goes to panic mode.

Followed by weak pollies trying to get us regulated without fully understanding our new industry.

Even worse they might ask the Australian Marketing Institute for their opinion...bugger.

AKTIFMAG said...

I'm a lawyer who specialises in media and my firm just had a discussion on this issue.

This exact issue.

Gavin Heaton said...

Did someone say "lawyers on twitter"? Take a look at:

Anonymous said...

I don't think that responding to people who mention you is spam... regardless of whether they are following you or not. I agree that Bigpond could be doing a better job for sure. There have been many occasions when I have mentioned a problem I am having with software, services etc and the company in question has responded (twitter, tweetdeck, delicious to name a few) with a solution. This has been a positive experience for me as a consumer and I have come to EXPECT this kind of response from SNS savvy companies.

Julian Cole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julian Cole said...

Has anyone checked out how the Twitter @bigpondteam is doing this week?

They are kicking some major goals, it is so good, it is a real shame that traditional press got a hold of this when all the blogosphere was negative, because I think if you asked a number of bloggers now about how Bigpond are using Twitter they could only be complimentary.

I think there is a real need for another story to come out about how Bigpond is now using the platform. They are a great example of how the technology should be used!

Good onya Bigpond, always stay in BETA my friend!

Hey Danielle, thanks for commenting on my blog, I dont believe we are at a stage where we can expect a response from all companies on Twitter, they may know about it but I believe alot of companies legal department and bureaucracy is still getting in the way of them responding!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jules,

In my experience of DM, you can approach people once then give them an opt out. Tweeters following them should have counted as an automatic opt-in approval. Would you agree?

@ben They responded to me (I wasn't following them) but I did send a tweet with an @bigpondteam message, so fair call in my books since i initiated the direct contact.

As for trademark it's crazy putting them on each post. Like all business correspondence you only need to put it once. If it existed on their a/c profile should have been enough.

In a sense breaking the community's 'laws' of not lurking before you leap, was the higher level twitter crime.

I agree they are much improved, especially with tone. Now I would like to see individual initials at the end of the tweets so we know who is saying what. Not just 'XXX here now'.

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