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Social media users play 'taro' card on recent scandals

The professional media always have to keep in mind that no matter how much their audience members love gossip and scandals, they still expect accountability from those who report on such issues.

When the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) released its Announcement No 97, which prohibits comments about its work and staff, many said the mainstream media would have no choice but to publicise just gossip and entertainment instead of hard news.

The NCPO eased its control a few days later. Mainstream media provided content related to the newly promulgated provisional charter and the roadmap to the drafting of a new Constitution as well as reaction to both developments.

However, Thai social-media users have apparently been more entranced by gossip, entertainment and drama than what is going on in the country. Indeed, they could be said to be demonstrating that these topics interest them more than national politics and global tragedies.

Many Facebook users on Thursday night posted that they were full of phuek - taro in Thai - used in this case as a slang to mean nosiness, as they had been closely following many scandals.

Thursday evening's Twitter timelines were flooded with comments about Mike Pirath and the son he fathered with an unmarried Thai-Italian model after the singer and actor held a press conference admitting the baby was his.

Amid a lot of praise for his candour, some posted that now the mysteries of this case had been solved, they would move on to other "taro".

@Blossom_Tea posted: "I don't feel that Mike is 'man' but he made a correct decision. You cannot get away with lies, as long as there is such thing as a Pantip Nation."

People were also gossiping about the status of the relationship between actress Janie Asavahame and her husband Chonsawat.

Miss Universe Thailand second runner-up Sunannika "Nampetch" Kritsanasuwan was stripped of her title after provocative photos of her were circulated online. Her personal behaviour has also been critically scrutinised.

Meanwhile, the spat between national taekwondo athlete Rungrawee Khurasa and chief coach Choi Young Seok continues to simmer. Social-media users, especially on Pantip, observed that Rungrawee's former coach Pitak Pookpun was continuing to stir up the conflict between Runrawee and his new chief coach despite them having allegedly buried the hatchet.

Jacky Bencha posted on Facebook: "Pantip Detectives are so scary. They are so good at digging they should work for the NCPO."

@Noomasoi3 posted a similar sentiment on Twitter: "You can do anything but don't piss off the Pantip Detective. They investigate even deeper than the national intelligence."

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's trip to Paris to join her brother Thaksin for his birthday celebrations attracted the attention of many. The interest was compounded when Thaksin's children posted a picture of the happy reunion on Instagram.

Many comments, memes and gags relating to the reunion were seen on social media on Thursday.

However, it became an even more pertinent topic when an administrator of Now/26 Channel @Now26_ktnews quoted a satirical comment by a Twitter user accompanied by a picture of Yingluck and Thaksin.

Although the tweet was deleted soon after, some Twitter users had already captured the picture of the tweet and circulated it. Therefore, the tweet became the talk of the town.

It took the administrator a few hours before @Chulalak_Bowlin admitted in her personal account that she was behind the retweet, and another half an hour for @Now26_ktnews to issue a message of apology at about 10.30pm.

The message read: "The retweet was due to carelessness on the part of some of the staff. Now/26 Krungthep Turakij Channel editorial team has given a warning. We apologise for the mistake and promise not to let such mistakes happen again."

Many social-media users said they did not care about the apology in the personal account, while the problematic tweet was that of an organisation. They were not satisfied with the apology and said they expected more from professional media.

Among many, @KonkarnL posted that she expected accountability and wanted to see measures to prevent such an incident occurring again.

This phenomenon reminded many of the media's role in society. It is another lesson for organisations regarding their use of social media and crisis management.

In a private Facebook group of bloggers and media academics, a veteran blogger posted: "I said many times that people should stop thinking that 'anybody can do it [run the media].' Or 'just the ability to use [IT] is enough'."


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