Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Google, Meta, TikTok & others agree to improve age assurance for alcohol advertising

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Leading digital platforms have agreed to strengthen their posture against alcohol-related marketing to underage users.

On Monday, a swath of leading tech companies – Google, Meta, Pinterest, Snap, TikTok and X – announced that they have partnered with major alcohol brands to establish stronger standards around online alcohol advertising.

The agreement aims to strengthen transparency and safety in the online advertising ecosystem in regard to messages promoting alcohol. A key focus of the initiative is strengthening age-assurance protocols used online to ensure that alcohol ads only reach drinking-age adults who want to see messaging from beer, wine and spirits brands.

The collaboration is led by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible drinking and education around alcohol consumption. Members of the group include leading alcohol companies like AB InBev, Diageo, Molson Coors, Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy, Bacardi, Suntory and others.

“Social media is a critical element of our long-standing efforts to prevent minors seeing our marketing. We are pleased to have found some great allies in the digital platforms who have demonstrated their willingness to put effective age assurance in place,” IARD chair and Pernod Ricard CEO Alexandre Ricard said in a statement. “This global initiative shows how the private sector can come together to raise international standards of responsibility, and we call on others to join us.”

The new initiative supports the United Nations’ aim of stemming substance abuse and the harmful use of alcohol, part of the organization’s Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of the platforms’ collaboration with IARD, the tech companies have each made public documents outlining their platform-specific alcohol advertising policies and their standards for age assurance and verification.

All six platforms have some kind of age assurance mechanism in place – though they vary in their stringency – as well as parental controls that help parents control what their kids see and do online.

However, there are a number of discrepancies across the companies’ advertising practices – Snap, for example, does not employ any kind of third-party ad verification, and the documentation provided by Meta does not point to any specific partnerships it has with ad verification vendors.

Meta said in its documentation that it would support “the creation of industry standards or guidelines that will allow for a consistent approach to age assurance across platforms and services.” An “optimal outcome,” the company said, “would be having standards or processes that allow platforms flexibility to choose the right age assurance process, but ensures consistency in the level of confidence in the outcome.”

All six organizations have signaled their support for the new IARD partnership. A Google spokesperson, for instance, said: “We take our responsibility to ensure age-appropriate advertising incredibly seriously and we are gratified that this group has come together to further promote responsible advertising practices across the industry.”

The IARD has been working in tandem with digital platforms since 2018 in an effort to improve the standards of responsibility for alcohol-related marketing online. Thus far, the nonprofit has successfully helped hundreds of thousands of influencers to implement age restrictions on their posts, brought major ad agencies under a unified global standard for influencer marketing and helped many advertisers to set specific age limits on their online content.

The IARD is still working with platforms to prevent underage users from being exposed to alcohol-related brand messages through effective age-affirmation mechanisms, improved transparency, stronger user-generated content policies, forward advice notices and more responsible drinking messages.

“Today’s new partnership between the world’s leading beer, wine and spirits companies and the global digital platforms is an important milestone in the global effort to further prevent advertising and sale of alcohol to those underage,” said IARD CEO and president Julian Braithwaite, “and it shows just what can be achieved when the private sector is effectively harnessed to deliver the UN goals to tackle the harmful use of alcohol.”

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