Officially, the Food and Drug Administration has set a date in the fall of 2009 for a public hearing on how to deal with social sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc., but one has to ask, why? There is no doubt that many areas of selling drugs over the internet is a safety issue for the general public but many people are wondering what took the FDA so long to try and regulate something other than food and drugs in the regular marketplace.
In a stunning reversal of roles as with any government agency, the FDA would like public assistance to figure out how to handle the advertising and promotion of regulated products and or services on the internet. The meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12 and 13, and you can get information on how to submit your comments or details if you would like to actually attend the meeting at the Federal Register.
The invitation includes helpful information on social media terminology such as podcast, Web 2.0 and blogs as well as details about the most popular social networking sites where people create profiles and then invite people to join as friends.
With the advent and unexpected popularity of social media sites there are many concerns that should be addressed. Social media has become the marketing medium of choice for many major companies as it reaches the most people and the cost is nothing as compared to magazine or newspaper advertising. Many online companies have dodged regulations of any kind and many industry insiders have complained that the internet is full of risks.
Janet Woodcock, the head of the FDA’s drug center, said there is a specific focus on policing advertisements. Drugs, medical devices etc, are more complex, and there have been continuous massive changes in the way internet users communicate, especially in the use of social media, such as Facebook and MySpace.
What kind of questions does FDA has in mind? Here are a few;
1) What type of online messaging are regulated companies being held responsible for? And what should they not be responsible for?
2) How do internet companies stay within current regulation, requirements like fair and balance in ads, within the restrictions of perhaps a 140-character tweet area?
3) When would a company have to retract and replace misleading information posted by third parties? Wikipedia allows all of its users to change content, and sometimes information is constantly challenged. With some companies, the FDA fears that they haven’t taken responsibility for known issues, fearing responsibility for retracting everything online.
4) The FDA wants to know what kinds of linking are rightfully used and when consumers find it misleading.
5) There are few sites in the social media that actually protect the consumer for perhaps side effects and other problems with products or services. What reporting and when do companies have to report on the Web to FDA?