Breaching the code: Alcohol, Facebook and self-regulation

Nicholas Carah, Sven Brodmerkel, Michelle Shaul

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportResearch


This report builds on our study of the activity of the top twenty alcohol brands on Facebook in Australia during 2012 (Carah, 2014) and a complaint made to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) and Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Complaints Panel regarding the pages of Victoria Bitter (VB) and Smirnoff in 2012 (Brodmerkel and Carah 2013).

In a 2012 submission we asked the ASB and ABAC to consider whether content posted on the Facebook pages of VB and Smirnoff breached standards in the code relating to excessive consumption, depiction of people under 25, offensive content, and the suggestion that alcohol improved mood and social success.

In a landmark decision, the ASB and ABAC both upheld the complaint, ruling for the first time that their alcohol advertising codes should apply to a brand’s Facebook page and that advertisers were directly responsible for the content that users generated on that platform, including comments made on a Facebook post.

Furthermore, the ASB and ABAC determined that user-generated content needed to be evaluated in the context in which it appears, taking account of how brands stimulate particular conversations.

This report examines content posted by alcohol brands to Facebook during 2012 following the determination of the ASB and ABAC (see Carah 2014) in order to assess compliance. The report poses three key research questions:
• Are the breaches of the code seen in the 2012 ruling against VB and Smirnoff more widely evident on the Australian Facebook pages of alcohol brands?
• Are alcohol brands complying with their own self-regulatory codes in light of the decisions by the ASB and ABAC in 2012?
• And are the current regulatory codes appropriate for regulating alcohol brand activity on Facebook?
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherFoundation for Alcohol Research & Education
Commissioning bodyFoundation for Alcohol Research & Education
Number of pages44
ISBN (Print)978-0-9925892-4-0
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


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