You may not know Instagram, this popular social network especially with young people. Well the Dr Aqdas Malik, researcher at Aalto University in Finland recently launched a study to see the links between the vaping industry and the social network. According to the researchers the conclusions are clear: Companies specializing in vaping are using Instagram to market their products to young people!
AN ANALYSIS OF THOUSANDS OF IMAGES BY AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE!
Instagram is a very popular visual social media platform, especially among young people. Researchers interested in public health at Aalto University in Finland have studied how the vape is represented on the platform. Using artificial intelligence, they were able to analyze hundreds of thousands of messages over a period of 6 months last year, and found that a large part of the messages were promoting flavored e-liquids to a young audience.
The search worked by uploading each image to Instagram that had a caption, including with the hashtag "#vaping" from June to November 2019.
« We knew it would be mainly promotional publications "Said the Dr Aqdas Malik from the IT department that studies public health and the Internet, " but we wanted to know what types of images they were and who published them. In the end, they generated a database of over half a million images, which they then sorted using a neural network, which grouped the images into categories with similar characteristics.
What this showed was that 40% of the images were e-liquids. These were mostly posted by Instagram profiles listed as business accounts. The importance of publications on e-liquids is interesting from a public health point of view because, although many brands of vape claim to sell "smoking cessation" devices, it has been shown by other studies that these e-liquids strongly target vaping teenagers.
« Although the print and broadcast media have clear rules and regulations on what can and cannot be advertised, and what constitutes advertising, we do not see not that on social media "Said Dr. Malik.
« I think we need tougher laws and rules on how we allow these products to be seen on these networks. Any 12 year old child with a phone can get an account and bypass the minimum age rules to see what is posted here, and the potential health implications are significant. ».
60% of all posts using the hashtag "#vaping" came from corporate accounts. Over 70% of Instagram users are under 35 and over 35% of its users are under 24. " It's a huge gray area in terms of advertising regulations, especially when it comes to promoting to a young audience "Said Dr. Malik.