Facebook trial lets users hide alcohol adverts


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Facebook is testing a tool that allows users to hide alcohol adverts.

Facebook is testing a tool that lets people hide advertisements for alcohol.

It is the first time a social network has let people proactively block adverts on a specific topic.

The move has been welcomed by Alcohol Research UK, which says social media is “saturated” with alcohol promotions.

It said advertising rules were not “fit for purpose”, but the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the UK had some of the strictest rules in the world.

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Media captionHayles wants to hide alcohol adverts from her social media feeds.

Hayles, from south Wales, describes herself as a “binge-aholic”, and told the BBC she did not want to see alcohol adverts on social media.

“To me, it’s a trigger,” she said.

“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.”

During the Facebook trial, participants will be able to block alcohol-related ads for six months, a year or permanently, by accessing their ad preferences. They will also be able to hide ads related to parenting.

The social network has asking people to suggest other topics they would like to be able to block.

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.

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Hayles doesn’t want to see alcohol ads on social media. She celebrated 100 days sober with a new “sober mama” tattoo.

“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 charity wants a comprehensive review of the regulations on social media “in order to ensure that people – particularly young people – develop healthier relationships with alcohol”.

Alcohol adverts on all platforms are governed in the UK by statutory regulation from the ASA. There is also a self-regulatory code of practice produced by the Portman Group, the responsibility body for drinks producers in the UK.

The ASA rejected claims that regulation around alcohol adverts online needed reviewing.

Constant 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 British Beer and Pub Association agreed that the regulations around advertising alcohol online were strict enough.

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “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.”

Hayles is celebrating reaching 100 days sober and is looking forward to trying the new Facebook tool.

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



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