Thai Economic Council raises the question of social media regulation amidst a fake news surge. In particular, online influencers face scrutiny as concern grows over their economic and societal impact. Is tighter control really necessary?

A top government agency official on Monday hinted at the possibility of enhanced regulation of online media content. The Secretary-general of the government’s top economic body, the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), Danucha Pitchayanan referenced Chinese laws which have outlawed content promoting conspicuous consumption when he raised the issue. Mr Danucha suggested that Thai regulations be updated with online media sources redefined legally. This was met by scepticism from key media and advertising industry players who warned against stifling creativity and innovation.

Secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) Danucha Pichayanan raised the issue on Monday. He was commenting on the economy’s performance at the end of 2023. Mr Danucha cited Chinese regulations, including the prohibition of content showcasing unrealistic wealth. He also suggested that the nature of online media in Thailand be redefined.

In a statement on Monday, March 4, 2024, Mr Danucha Pitchayanan, Secretary-General of the NESDC, raised questions about Thailand’s social media environment.

With the rise of influencers, content production has become a competitive arena. He was concerned that trending content was prioritising engagement over accuracy.

In turn, this has led to the spread of fake news and distorted information.

Economics agency raises the harmful impact of social media on the economy and societal trends as it reviewed the performance for the last quarter of 2023

The top Thai economic agency, this week, expressed unease with the growing power of social media.

The problem is indirectly at odds with overall government policy which is encouraging Thais to embrace digital technology.

The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) raised the issue as it critiqued the economy’s performance in the last quarter of 2023.

At length, it noted that China had introduced regulations governing its social media sphere. In particular, the Communist regime in Beijing has prohibited content which promotes or glorifies wealth or exotic as well as unattainable lifestyles.

It comes as Thailand is experiencing a surge in influencer-based marketing. In short, this has propelled the local creator economy in the kingdom.

However, it is also stirring apprehension about its adverse effects on society. While some advocate for stricter regulation, others emphasise the importance of creativity of self-regulation.

Economic council boss quotes Nielsen as he raised concerns about the activities of online influencers. Thailand is second in Asean with 2 million online

The top economic agency cited a 2022 Nielsen report on social media in the ASEAN Economic Community.

It showed that Thailand had an advanced sector with 2 million actors out of 13.5 million media influencers in the region. The kingdom was second only to Indonesia.

Nielsen is a worldwide source of audience and market information used for many decades by the advertising and media sector.

This latest report by the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) highlights how influencers operate.

In short, they are driven by the pursuit of popularity. Consequently, they often prioritise engagement over the accuracy or suitability of their content. 

The report estimates that each post created by such actors generated a minimum of ฿800 income which can rise to ฿700,000. The industry is funded by online media advertising budgets and paid-for product reviews, a key growth area. 

In 2021, both advertising and product reviews generated $19 billion in revenue globally.

Significantly, this is set to rise to $140 billion by 2030, a jump of 736%.

Fears of misinformation and distortion of news and current affairs. Secretary-general also raised the issue of illegal activities such as online gambling 

This rush to produce content has resulted in various negative social consequences, including the proliferation of misinformation and the promotion of illegal activities like online gambling.

Moreover, influencers often showcase extravagant lifestyles, promoting materialism and skewed societal values.

This not only misguides individuals but also exacerbates financial strain. In short, people may resort to debt to emulate these lifestyles.

At this time, Thai consumers appear to be in a buoyant mood. However, there is evidence showing a proportion skipping monthly bank repayments. It comes as banks rein in lending while domestic consumer spending appears to remain high. In particular, spending in the hospitality sector.

Consumer spending is buoyant. In addition, the money is being spent primarily on good times and alcohol not on reducing debt or on productive expenditure

While countries such as China have implemented specific laws targeting influencers, Thailand lacks clear regulations tailored to this burgeoning industry.

The NESDC suggests revising the definition of online media to provide clearer guidelines for oversight.

Pawat Ruangdejworachai, president of Media Intelligence Group, however, cautions against such moves.

He warns that rules alone may not suffice to counter the negative societal impact of influencers. In addition, he emphasises the importance of instilling a sense of responsibility among influencers and promoting parental control.

Industry leaders and experts express caution even at the suggestion of controls as in China. Such a move would have unpredictable negative consequences 

Suvita Charanwong is the CEO of Tellscore, an automation platform designed for social media influencers. She firmly advocates for self-regulation.

She underlines the role of social media and e-commerce platforms in limiting and suppressing harmful content.

Furthermore, she points to the ability of artificial intelligence to detect inappropriate content. Certainly, she agreed that influencers should uphold ethical standards.

However, stringent laws could pose a threat to the growth of the creative economy, warns Ms Suvita. Tellscore does business with 100,000 influencers. 

The platform educates them on content that violates laws, such as posts related to alcohol and gambling.

Data from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society’s Anti-Fake News Centre for fiscal year 2023 reveals striking figures.

Over 7,000 accounts were flagged for spreading fake news. In turn, more than 5,000 stories were identified as false or misleading. 

Online gambling is a specific problem

The problem of influencers promoting online gambling has further exacerbated the situation.

Authorities fear millions of individuals, especially the younger generation, are being exposed to such content and temptation.

An insight into the problem was provided by a report authored by the Gambling Problem Study Centre in 2023.

It identified 740,000 out of 3 million new-generation users as engaging in online gambling.

Its report suggested that 87.7% had been introduced to it by online ads, online messaging or invitations.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Facebook threatened with closure as it is linked to 70% of online fraud says outgoing minister

Facebook to copy Twitter with its own paid-for blue check and verification service on its network in Thailand

Minister warns Facebook of possible legal action including Computer Crime Act criminal charges

Facebook under investigation over translation blunder as minister criticises the social network

Two Immigration Bureau officers in Nonthaburi suspended after video appears to show bribe request

TV actress apologises for her wrongful bribery accusation against a Thai traffic police officer

UK wife abuser arrested by Immigration Bureau police in Bangkok for attempted murder

26-year-old partner advertised his ex-wife by her real name on Facebook with erotic photographs as a hooker

40 year old Thai billionaire and emerging election winner may face prosecution for Facebook post

Future Forward Party and leader are Thai junta’s worst nightmare in March 24th general election

Koh Tao claims by UK teenager questioned by Thai police – arrest warrants indicated for some media

Thailand passes new cyber security law allowing authorities more power to fight cyber crime and threats

Thai Government warns about fake news online as political discourse picks up before elections

Popular Phuket based Facebook page attacks foreigners and tourists in Thailand as virus tensions mount

Online child abuse is being exploited as a business opportunity by some Thai porn barons with networks

Porn web preying on Thai women in Bangkok. Arrest of the fiend at the heart of the blackmail and deceit

Thai man arrested for blackmail scheme targeting Thai women whom he paid to send him sex clips

Russian couple arrested, charged and fined for having sex in public on a Pattaya beach shown on video clip