Twitter, Facebook can be policed as "advertisements"

England's Advertising Standards Authority now has powers to police Facebook, Twitter, and other online content as if they were advertisements, starting today. This means these communications must meet the same standards regarding misleading, confusing, and offensive material. For now this only applies to British companies (and companies doing business in England) and the penalties are very mild, but this is likely to set a new precedent that will grow in both severity and international adoption.

Interestingly, and understandably, the new policy only applies to company generated content, and excludes user generated content (UGC). This means your customers' comments will not get dinged for being exaggerated, misleading, or untrue. This is another point in favor of UGC and testimonials/word-of-mouth, but hopefully no one will use the opportunity to encourage customers to lie. The line between "company speech" and "personal speech" is very vague right now, but that type of behavior would clearly fail the test for "personal speech".

We've already seen the FCC crack down on bloggers, requiring disclosure if they received "gifts" from companies they are reviewing, so it is likely only a matter of time until similar regulations are applied to US firms.