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    Repeat Offender: The Case of Illegal Online Alcohol Advertising in Poland

    In an ongoing crackdown on illegal alcohol promotion on social media, Janusz P. finds himself facing charges yet again. The Warsaw District Prosecutor’s office, led by prosecutor Szymon Banna, has accused Janusz P. of unlawfully advertising vodka on popular platforms Facebook and Instagram. Despite a previous conviction and a hefty fine of 80,000 PLN just last year for similar offenses, Janusz P. maintains his innocence.

    The case underscores a significant legal and social debate regarding the advertising of spirits online, which, unlike beer, is strictly prohibited in Poland. The investigation revealed that the adverts were targeted at users aged 18 and above, specifically those between 25 to 55 years old, reaching between 1,608 and 168,708 individuals. These figures highlight not only the scale of the alleged violation but also the sophisticated targeting capabilities of social media advertising.

    Prosecutor Banna emphasized that the format of the advertisement—whether on a website or social media like Instagram—does not affect its legality. He argued that content shared on social media should be considered public, dismissing the notion that such posts are private because they’re restricted to a certain group of followers. This point addresses a grey area in social media’s role in advertising, particularly around the access and visibility of promotional materials.

    The prosecutor’s office clarified that any promotional material for alcoholic beverages other than beer is unconditionally banned. The law’s intent is clear: to restrict the public’s exposure to alcohol advertising, thereby potentially curbing consumption. This case, therefore, tests the boundaries of digital advertising laws and social media’s responsibility in enforcing age restrictions and content type.

    Moreover, the prosecution argued against the defense that setting an age limit on social media profiles could prevent underage users from viewing the advertisements, pointing out that platforms like Instagram and Facebook do not verify the ages of their users beyond mere declarations. Thus, underage users could still potentially access the advertisements, further complicating the enforcement of advertising laws.

    This case not only revisits the ongoing issues of digital advertising and its regulation but also serves as a critical examination of how laws adapt to new media landscapes. As the trial progresses, it will likely set precedents for how online advertising, particularly of restricted products like alcohol, is managed and regulated in the era of digital consumption.

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