I’ve heard of placing your e-mail address on a “whitelist” so that you can continue to receive “junk” e-mail whose sender may be on a “blacklist” maintained by Spam Haus or some other agent that ISPs subscribe to. But I just learned from Intouch’s Wendy Blackburn and Jim Dayton that social networks like Facebook also engage in a practice called “whitelisting.”

“Over the last year,” said Dayton, “Facebook has recognized the need for Pharma companies to disable certain functionality of their Pages due to FDA regulations. Most notably, this includes the disabling of the ‘comment’ functionality. Some companies have even requested the Like button be removed. As far as I know, Facebook has worked with companies to get this functionality disabled on an as-needed basis. This practice is called ‘whitelisting'” (see “Understanding (More) Recent Facebook Changes“).

IMHO, it is NOT true that FDA regulations require the disabling of certain FB functionality. I don’t find any regulations from FDA regarding that. Nor warning letters. FDA, for example, did not send Sanofi-Aventis a warning letter about the comments published on its FB page by a “disgruntled patient” (see “Disgruntled Patient Shuts Down sanofi-aventis Facebook Page“).

In fact, there is at least ONE pharma FB page that has comments turned on (see here).

Obviously, most pharma companies have what I call Social Networking Idiosyncratic Dysfunctional Episodes (SNIDE). Due to SNIDE attitudes, most pharma companies prefer that no consumer/patient communicate with them via social networks. It’s just too much trouble and besides, we’re not use to that! Of course, SNIDE sufferers blame FDA regulations instead of their own aversion to social networking.

Meanwhile, Facebook is in a quandary. If they make it easy for just anyone to turn off comments, then everyone will want to do that and there goes their social network. So they are now making it harder to get on the list (the “whitelist,” that is). Dayton advises pharma companies that they “must contact your [Facebook] rep and discuss the use case and justification for needing any functionality changes.” I don’t think it will be much of a problem for pharma companies to be “whitelisted.” Do you? BTW, I don’t even have a Facebook rep. Do you?

FOLLOWUP: A conversation with Matthew Snodgrass, Social Media Director at WCG, about Facebook’s planned changes to its “whitelisting” policy and its implications for pharmaceutical marketers:

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