Utrecht, The Netherlands, August 31th 2022

This is conclusion of an experiment by the Dutch journalistic research platform Pointer.

State Secretary for Health Maarten van Ooijen is shocked: “This is dramatic.” The journalists of Pointer opened a TikTok account as a 13-year-old and scrolled through the social media platform for an hour. They entered searches such as “drink challenge” and “mixing drinks” to feed TikTok’s algorithm and were shown more than 200 videos where alcoholic drinks were visible.

The fact that so much alcohol can be seen on TikTok is remarkable, because it is prohibited by the Dutch law on television to advertise alcohol between 6 A.M. and 9 P.M. to protect children. This legal rule does not exist for social media and therefore cannot be enforced. “The Media Act was drawn up at a time when the online offer was completely different than it is now,” said a spokesperson of the Media Authority. It is not clear whether the films are promoted by the drinks industry or whether video makers simply like to make films with alcohol. The alcohol industry says that they do not advertise on TikTok and TikTok also indicates to Pointer that alcohol advertising is prohibited on their platform. A TikTokker who makes videos called ‘Shot of the week’ says about it to Pointer: “It would be nice if I was paid for it, but it’s not.” He makes the videos mainly for his own brand awareness and knows that minors also see it: “Do you discover a loophole in the law or do you just do what you like?” In terms of influence on the alcohol use of young people, it does not matter whether it is commercial advertising. Hanneke Hendriks of the Radboud University in Nijmegen researched it: “Even a fairly innocent post, in which alcohol is alone on the table, turned out to increase the chance that young people will drink and these kinds of videos Pointer discovered are much more extreme.”

In line with the National Prevention Agreement, secretary of state of the Ministry of Health Van Ooijen is trying to rigorously reduce alcohol use among teenagers, because it is harmful to the developing brain. “We should not want children to see this.” Van Ooijen will look into it, but is not very hopeful: “It is practically very complicated in an online social media environment to reduce this. So it will not be easy to get this out of the timeline of children.”

Original message: https://pointer.kro-ncrv.nl/wat-ziet-noah-13-aan-alcohol-op-tiktok


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