In the past year anti-Halal campaigners have increasingly targeted Australian food and beverage producers. Generally the attacks are focussed through social media and in particular, the Facebook pages of the producers.
A significant number of Australian food and beverage producers have obtained Halal certification not only to assist consumers in Australia but also to expand their businesses into Asian markets, where the certification is required to sell products to substantial Islamic populations.
The anti-Halal campaigners seek to force the producer to cease obtaining and using the certification. The approach taken has ranged from posing questions about the certification itself through to allegations of supporting terrorism, the posting of confronting and violent videos and even to threats against individual employees of the producers.
So, what should you do if your company is the subject of a similar targeted campaign?
- Firstly, you must comply with your obligations under the Australian Consumer Law. Any statements or comments made by you in social media or more formally, should be true, correct and not misleading in any way. Any misstatements in relation to your products on social media should be corrected in a clear and non-inflammatory way by a general statement. Whilst recent Federal Court decisions suggest you should not be liable for representations made by others on your site, where you have the ability to control the publication you should exercise this ability to avoid your site being used to convey any misleading statements to consumers.
- Do not to enter into any direct exchanges with the individuals or organisations posting on social media. This is only likely to benefit those trying to promote their negative opinion of the Halal certification of your product. Any responses should be posted on social media as statements addressing the issue generally and not specifically addressing any posts or comments.
- Ensure you have a good social media policy which is accessible by anyone visiting your pages or engaging with you on social media. This policy should set out what is acceptable conduct on your pages and what steps you will take to remove any inappropriate or racist comments or posts. You should then act in accordance with your social media policy. Be sure to only delete comments consistent with what your policy says and anything misleading should be removed as quickly as possible.
- Develop a consistent strategy to address any campaign against your business and/or your products so that each comment, complaint or threat is dealt with in the same way. If possible, this strategy should be developed with PR representatives and be consistent with your brand.
- If you are receiving threats, in particular threats of violence, against individuals in your business or your business more generally these threats should be reported to the police. The police are aware of similar complaints and are recording the threats.
- Seek industry support. Many other businesses have been the subject of similar campaigns and industry associations such as the Australian Food and Grocery Council are very aware of the anti-Halal certification campaigns. The industry associations should be able to share useful insights and recommendations to assist you to “weather the storm” of the focus of the campaign.