Because starting May 26th, you could be arrested and thrown in the dock in the United Kingdom for misrepresenting your company as a consumer (Walmarting Across America comes to mind here).
The legislation is already in practice in Europe, the UK is just getting into the act a little (fashionably ?) late. On one hand this can be good because it’s going to cut down on the amount of BS astroturfing that companies and their PR firms do. It’s a kind-of enforced authenticity.
Is this a good thing? Isn’t it better if people know that a company isn’t communicating authentically of their own accords? The press, and other bloggers, are more than happy to shine a light on the astroturfing efforts of those corporations and PR firms. Isn’t that the way it should be? Online news organizations, like the newly created New Mexico Independent or well-established PR Watch, are sprouting up to watchdog various organizations and report the news without fear or favor (if not partisanship).
And another question I’d like to ask is, for activist groups throughout Great Britain – do these rules apply for them as well? Will the same group of activists who misrepresent themselves as a greater number of people (think about the blogger equivalent of a phone bank calling talk radio shows to comment) be subject to the same rules and punishment? Ad Age explains the law as applying to “Brand Owners” and Greenpeace, or the Sierra Club, or the Christian Coalition, or Wake Up Walmart are all brands and should be subject to those laws as well. All things being fair and all that.
What this means is that companies and organizations should be authentic and true in their online communications. A lesson to corporations, activists and PR firms around the world: if you represent themselves truthfully when dealing with online and social media communities, they can avoid a lot, if not almost all of, these kinds of problems.
It will be interesting to watch Great Britain in the upcoming months and see what happens.
Hat Tip: Ad Age