Advertisers in Thailand have sworn by their political neutrality after their brands became targets of “cancel culture” by Thai Twitter users. Twitter users in Thailand have targeted advertisers on Nation TV who has been covering the anti-government protests.
Cancel culture or call-out culture describes a form of boycott. It refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.
In this case, it started with a lapse of professional ethics by a journalist assigned by the TV station to cover the youth-led anti-government rally. Students were demanding political change at Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue last Sunday.
When she asked a demonstrator for an interview, the suspicious protester asked: “What news outlet are you from?”
Fearing she would be turned down given the pro-democracy tone of the demonstration, she lied, saying she came from a little-known news outlet.
Twitter lights Up in Rage Over Interview
The interview showed up later that day on the Nation TV to the anti-government protesters surprise. The interviewee then raged on Twitter about the interview. Criticism quickly took hold on Twitter, and within hours a hashtag #แบนเนชั่น calling for a boycott of the Nation TV media group went viral.
The campaigners quickly refined their focus beyond urging people not to read or watch Nation news coverage. They decided to hit the company where it hurt most, with a new hashtag #แบนสปอนเซอร์เนชั่น urging people not to buy products from companies advertising with the group.
Lists of the advertisers’ names have been widely shared, prompting the companies to take a defensive stance. They range from some brands of consumer products giants Unilever and Osotspa;, the food and retail conglomerate CP Group; Central Group; as well as Muang Thai Life and the delivery service provider Foodpanda. Which also announced on Saturday it had decided to “suspend” all ads on the TV station.
Say goodbye Food Panda 🚫🐼
— ||Urmygift702|| (@urmygift702) August 20, 2020
— Mr.BlackCoat (@mr_blackcoat) August 19, 2020
The company advertisers on the list have since issued statements denying involvement with the TV station and insisted they are politically neutral. But only insurer Muang Thai Life said it would stop advertising with the group.
Some Twitter users even called on their parent companies abroad to “acknowledge their Thailand branch is supporting dictatorship” by mentioning them in their tweets.
Nation Multimedia Group goes into damage control
The management of Nation Multimedia Group (NMG), admitted in a statement on Wednesday that its reporter did not reveal the identity of her employer. However, it claimed its reporters have in the past been intimidated. Also verbally abused and pressured by protesters at several rallies.
“We insist no part of the news reported by her is distorted or untruthful. The issue is an attempt to create an online trend by those with opposing political views in Thailand,” the statement said.
The group said it had always reported only facts and given all people a chance to tell their sides of stories. Urging people not to use brands as a tool to attack it. Furthermore as it unfairly affected the products and the companies that marketed them.
It also said that a lot of the information about the Nation Group now circulating online is distorted. Also that hate speech is being used to divide society. It threatened to take legal action against people seeking to harm the company.
Watanya Wongopasi, a list MP of the governing Palang Pracharath Party, is a former director of a company that engineered the bitterly contested takeover of SET-listed NMG in 2015. She has divested her holdings and her husband, Chai Bunnag, now serves as CEO of NMG.