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Celebrities, the law and publicising on social media

Oct 22. 2015
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STATE officers should be responsible and not pretend to look the other way, as we saw in the case of Thai celebrities posting pictures of themselves with beer products on social media a few weeks ago.
Even though the move by the celebrities could be considered an astute marketing gimmick whatever their intention may have been, questions can certainly be raised about their sense of “social responsibility”.
As the posts went viral on social media and became the talk of the town, the executive of a beer rival criticised their behaviour, saying it could be in breach of the law on advertising and was inappropriate.
Apart from the pictures – posted on Instagram – of the stars themselves with the beer product, whose brand label is clearly visible, the backdrop can also be seen of where it is available. Moreover, each of their pictures is also well matched with similar moods and tones through key words that reveal changes in the products’ taste, packaging and image. 
Deputy police chief Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen said their actions looked to be a clear violation of Article 26 of the Alcohol Beverage Control Act 2008, which bans ads from showing the brand label of any alcohol beverage.
He explained that it did not matter if people posted pictures of themselves drinking alcoholic drinks on social media – intentionally or otherwise and whether they were actors or others – it would still be illegal because brand labels were clearly shown. If they also added a caption suggesting the drink, it could also be a violation of Article 32.
However, some of the 24 entertainment celebrities, who were named in the police summons list to explain their posts, claimed innocence, saying what they had done was on their “personal space”. They also denied being hired by anyone for the posts. After hearing explanation, the police concluded that the stars were benighted. 
But many Thais are wondering whether the celebrities were hired for the posts. If yes, who should be punished – the hirers or the hired persons? If the stars were indeed benighted, should they be punished?
The basic principle should be that anyone found faulty should be punished by law. Despite the fact that their actions could be explained as unintentional, it does not mean they should be allowed to get away with it. Penalty exemption can be applied later, depending on grounds. 
An action cannot be condoned just because it was unintentional. Carrying such an argument far, even those accused of murder could claim innocence.
Even if the celebrities are not ruled guilty of violating the law, it goes without saying that as public figures they owe a responsibility to society by not posting pictures of themselves with alcoholic products on their personal social media. 
In fact, social media networks like Facebook or Instagram should be considered media, as their ability to reach out to the public is on par with mainstream media like television, radio and print. 
So no one should claim that Facebook or Instagram is their personal space, because any information on them can be shared with many others all over the world.
The state officers are being challenged by this case, as their ruling will become the norm in other cases.
We are waiting to hear what the ruling in the cases will be and hope that we will no longer see advertising of any other brands of alcohol drinks on social media. 

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