Facebook this week stopped letting pharmaceutical companies disable the Facebook Walls, and thus the ability to comment, on their Facebook Pages. Some firms decided to shut down some of their Pages and update their social media policies to avoid potential problems. Others revamped their commenting guidelines and said that they will more closely monitor the comments made on their Pages.
Previously, Facebook offered an option to drug companies that no other industry had: the ability to disable Walls on company Pages. The feature was there due to concerns that users would make comments about adverse effects, the potential off-label use of their products, and/or inappropriate statements — all of which could raise concern from government regulators, according to The Washington Post.
The change had been in the works for some time, but Facebook still hasn't given much details about the option: not before and not now. The company never explained why it chose to give pharmaceutical companies this privilege or what prompted the social networking giant to change its policy.
"We think these changes will help encourage an authentic dialogue on pages," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. Pages focused on companies themselves and on disease or patient-specific communities now have to include Walls. Palo Alto still allows companies to block Walls on Pages focused on specific prescription products, but most of pharmaceutical companies said they didn't have such Pages setup.
As a consumer, rather than an executive at one of these companies, I approve of this change. Previously, Facebook was providing patients with a tool, and then letting pharmaceutical companies make it useless. Now if you find a Facebook Page belonging to such a company, you won't necessarily be wasting your time navigating to it. Of course there's still the really big chance that these companies will simply filter the comments they deem worthy for their Pages, but that takes much more effort and can't be done very quickly.
This move also makes me wonder what favors Facebook is doing for other industries. In this case, the company has made a change for its rule, but are there other rules that should get the same treatment? I've asked for a comment in regards to this story and I'll update this post if I hear back.
Update: Facebook gave me a standard "no comment" response.