Except they don't, really, and Alcohol Con can't produce any evidence to the contrary. Instead, they resort to saying that some drinks companies use Facebook and Twitter, and so do teenagers. Ipso facto, drinks companies must be banned from using Facebook and Twitter.
And yes, that is exactly what they're demanding:
Given their strong appeal to young people, official alcohol marketing should not be permitted on social networking sites.
The report is of the usual fake charity standard, containing shocking revelations like this:
Each of the most popular drinks brands amongst young people aged 11-17 in the UK, namely Fosters, WKD, Carling, Budweiser, Carlsberg, Bacardi and Smirnoff, have a dedicated website.
The monsters! The vile unfeeling monsters! And there is in-depth research like this:
Video websites such as YouTube have also meant that previously-aired alcohol television adverts, which may not satisfy today’s broadcasting codes, have gained a new lease of life; a search on YouTube of “Carling Black Label” and “Tetley’s Bitter” for example produces adverts for the brands from the 1980s and the early 1990s.
Look, this is the internet. On the internet you can find out how to make a bomb, you can discuss designer drugs, you can find more porn than you could watch in a life-time, you can download any movie, steal any song, write about anything and read about anything. It's unstoppable, uncontrollable and it is gloriously immune to censorship. If a fifteen year old wants to go onto Youtube and look at an old Carlsberg Black Label advert, that is the least of your worries.
None of this is evidence. It is banal Googling and it tells us nothing. To be fair, Alcohol Con has gone to the effort of assembling a focus group of 16 and 17 year olds to discuss the connection between alcohol and the internet. The results were unsurprising. They used Facebook to put up pictures of themselves on a night out and, as you might expect, some of these nights out involved drinking.
For the young people surveyed, alcohol consumption and Facebook usage were both intrinsic parts of their everyday lives. It is perhaps inevitable, therefore, that SNS users enjoyed documenting their own drinking experiences and reading about the drink-fuelled exploits of others.
Fair enough. They are slightly underage but no one is suggesting that young people should be banned from using Facebook in case they mention drinking. So how does the drinks industry and their insidious marketing come into this?
None of the respondents interviewed admitted to being aware of or visiting brand websites.
None of the young people consulted have previously accessed brand websites and were not inclined to do so in the future. Similarly, the majority of respondents did not visit alcohol brand sites on Facebook, and the minority who have come across such pages previously had devoted little time to them.
Right. And what about the alcohol industry's sneaky use of Facebook, which Alcohol Con's head honcho Don Shenker calls a "real danger"?
Just a very small minority of the young people consulted had seen alcohol companies advertising on Facebook, through pop-ups on the side of their homepage.
Wow, this is a real epidemic of stealth marketing, isn't it? And what about Youtube?
Just one respondent mentioned searching for ‘funny videos’ on YouTube and had watched official alcohol videos. He recalled having watched the ‘Good Call’ advert by Fosters and the Heineken ‘Walk-in-fridge’ advert, and commented that they were amusing.
None of these respondents, however, were aware of alcohol channels on YouTube.
By this time you may be thinking that Alcohol Concern's report—faithfully publicised by the Daily Mail and others—is, at best, a waste of time that proves the opposite of what they are saying in the press, but maybe the drinks companies have been using Twitter to attract underage customers? I've been looking through the Twitter archive of a number of drinks companies (most of them aren't even on it) and I haven't found a single tweet that could be considered even vaguely child-orientated.
But then I looked at Alcohol Concern's twitter feed and it seems that they have found an example of malevolent practice. On August 15, Smirnoff tweeted this:
To which Dong Shaker replied:
What?!? We are dealing with drooling obsessives here. People who see hidden meanings in everything. Paranoid people, in other words. Can we stop funding them now please?
Interestingly, when you search for "Alcohol Concern Facebook" on Google, the first site on the list is a group called 'Alcohol Concern: Bugger Off' which has a mission statement with which I can sympathise:
Just a little show of disdain towards those boring twats at alcohol concern who are railing against a pint of beer costing 99p in Wetherspoons.
Listen. I'm sorry that your dad or mum was a drinker. I'm sorry for whatever deeply egocentric reason you have for joining such a pointless group. I honestly feel for you. But whatever happened to you, it's not the fault of the rest of mankind. Get over it. Shit happens. It's a genetic failing of yours. Not my fault.
I like drinking.
A beer is a social glue. And at 99p, hard working people on lower wages might be able to enjoy a few more of a night. And Cheers!
Alcohol Concern. Go away. Shut up. Leave us alone. Stop ruining everything for people.
You dull twats.
Smirnoff has 17,629 followers while Alcohol Concern has 269 followers. Who exactly does this fake charity represent again?