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Facebook’s Latest Trial Allows Users to Block Advertisements for Alcohol


Earlier this week a tattoo-shop owner from South Wales, identified simply as Hayles, appeared on BBC Radio 5 live to discuss the growing struggle she faces with alcohol advertisements on social media platforms. As a recovering alcoholic who recently celebrated 100 days of sobriety with a ‘sober mama’ tattoo, Hayles described how such advertisements, while benign to the average user, act as a trigger for her “binge-aholic” tendencies, making what is already an uphill struggle even more difficult to beat.

She does not however suggest that these adverts should be banned from appearing on social media platforms; rather she would like to retain a little extra control over her feed, setting her preferences in such a way that allows her to avoid any material which may be detrimental to her newfound sobriety.

“Not only do I get told that it's Friday night and it's ‘wine night’ for mum when the kids are in bed, I also get told I should be out drinking flavoured vodka because that's the only way I can go dancing, I can only enjoy rugby if I have a lager… it's tiresome, if I'm honest,” explained Hayles. “To me, it's a trigger.

“You're always going to be faced with difficulties and I don't want to hide away from it, I don’t want it to look like [alcohol] doesn’t exist but I'd like my social media to be controlled by what I want to see, because it's mine, it's my page.”

In a move sure to delight Hayles and anyone else struggling with similar issues, Facebook have announced that they are trialling the use of a new tool which would allow users to block alcohol-related advertisements from appearing on their page or news feed. Participants of the trial will be able to block alcohol-related ads for six months, a year, or permanently, by selecting the desired option within the ‘ad preferences’ menu. This marks the first time that any of the major social media platforms have allowed users to proactively block adverts based on a specific topic.

Users will also be able to hide adverts related to parenting, and Facebook are currently asking for recommendations as to other topics to include.

Representatives from Alcohol Research UK have publicly praised the decision to trial the blocking of alcohol-related advertisements online, as they believe that social media is currently “saturated” with such adverts and that existing advertising rules are not “fit for purpose”.

Dr James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK, told BBC Radio 5 live that the volume of marketing material on social media was a particular problem for those who had struggled with alcohol misuse.

“You'll often find that brands create a range of content: funny videos and memes, competitions, tie-ins with real-world events, that are designed to keep their brand visible in timelines,” he said.

“They can do this without breaking the rules on celebrating drunkenness, or showing people who look under 25, but still saturate the online environment with references to drinking.”

The charitable organisation is actually going one step further, calling for a comprehensive review of regulations regarding the advertisement of alcohol on social media platforms. However the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the body charged with the governance of such legislation, rejects any claims that current regulations require review.

Craig Jones, the organisation's spokesman, insisted that the rules were applied “just as stringently online - including ads on social media, user-generated content and vlogs - as they are in traditional media.

“The number of complaints we receive about alcohol ads has halved in recent years, but we're not complacent and keep the rules under constant review. If people see an alcohol ad they think is irresponsible they can make a complaint to the ASA. If an ad breaks the rules, one complaint can be enough to see it banned.”

The ASA’s stance is backed up by the British Beer and Pub Association, whose chief executive Brigid Simmonds told the BBC, “Our members adhere to the ASA's rules as well as the Portman Group's code.

“All our marketing is about brand awareness and not encouraging people to drink more. As an industry we also use advertising to deliver soft consumer messaging around alcohol awareness, linking to DrinkAware and providing responsible messaging.”

So what do you think? Do advertising laws need reviewing as they relate to the advertisement of alcohol on social media platforms, or do you feel that current regulations strict enough?



Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working as Editor of Social Songbird, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @Songbird_Sam

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Facebook’s Latest Trial Allows Users to Block Advertisements for Alcohol Reviewed by Sam Bonson on Thursday, September 21, 2017 Rating: 5

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