The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) recognises the importance of protecting the online public from unscrupulous businesses and organisations. However, in representing the PR profession, we have concerns regarding the planned extension of the remits of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to cover online communications.
The advertising industry is concerned with advertising messaging that is one-way. Social networks involve dialogue and frequently 'editorial' content.
We believe that the ASA's remit does not extend to moderating the freedom of speech so closely associated with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and websites. Any definition of advertising should be scoped so as to avoid censoring the ability of citizens and consumers to enjoy the free online dialogue they have come to expect.
The CIPR also has reservations about changes to the CAP Code and the way the ASA's new and extended remit has been planned. Any changes to the UK's current regulatory frameworks affecting how the public relations profession conducts its business should be developed through close consultation with the Chartered body of the public relations profession.
Given the significance these proposed changes will have for public relations, marketing and social media professionals, the CIPR believes that the ASA should be working together with the CIPR to develop fair and workable regulations that work with and support broader, existing frameworks such as the CIPR Code of Conduct and social media guidelines.
The CIPR approached the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), which is represented on the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), in May of this year and were given the undertaking that the views of the PR industry would be heard.
"We are disappointed this action has been taken without our involvement," says Ann Mealor, Interim CEO at the CIPR. "We are writing to the ASA regarding our concerns and advocating the need for closer working relationships on this issue."