Economy

Hey Grandpa, You're Rockin' It On Facebook!

Seniors Demographic Reaches Social Media Tipping Point.

A groovy grandpa.
A groovy grandpa.
Laura Stampler

When you think of the brands that dominate on Facebook, companies like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, and Disney spring to mind. Grandparents.com, not so much.

But according to Track Social, Grandparents.com was actually the 8th most shared brand on Facebook in the last month and a half — beating BMW in the run-up to Christmas and NPR during election season.

"Grandparents kind of love being grandparents, and they want other people to know it," explained SVP and editor-in-chief Ellen Breslau. Which perhaps explains why posts on the company's Facebook page are getting shared an average of 3,432 times a day.

The belief that grandparents and social media are incompatible is a stereotype of the past. My grandma might sometimes call Facebook "FaceSpace," but she's poked me on it more in the last year than everyone else combined.

Furthermore, as more boomers make the shift into grandparenthood, the soon to be 120 million population (in the U.S., says Grandparents.com) is getting a lot younger and more Internet savvy.

"This is the era of Woodstock and rock-and-roll," Breslau said.

It's a younger demographic that isn't being marketed by other outlets, particularly in the social media space.

"There's a lot of competition out there for a lot of different audiences," said Breslau, who came from the highly saturated world of women's magazines. "I think there might be something to this idea that no one else is talking about, or to grandparents."

So they're sharing on Grandparents.com's Facebook page. A lot.

"One of my staff said it's become a time when we don't send cards anymore" Breslau said. "Grandparents always sent Hallmark cards, but maybe sharing our Facebook posts is that kind of sentiment."

The most shared posts are usually the "Quotes of the Day" — which Breslau admits is "kind of sappy, but very sweet." That's followed by comics and cartoons, crafts, photographs, and grandparent news (like impressive grandparents who do gymnastics and other unconventional activities).

While there are no photo contests yet, that sharable content is on the way.

"I don't know if they're on Instagram at the moment," she said.

History

Grandparents.com started in 2007 as a website offering grandparents activities to do with their grandchildren. It was sold in 2010 and after going public in 2012, transformed into a full service community site with recipe exchanges, lifestyle articles, and money saving tips.

A necessary part of community building on the site, which now serves 700,000 users a month, was building a Facebook presence as well. Although the Grandparents.com Facebook page launched in 2009, it only had about 6,000 fans at the end of April 2011.

Then came targeted Facebook ads to build on to its current 55,000 fanbase, which isn't jaw dropping, but is more engaged than much larger communities.

"The Facebook ads we have running all play on the individual grandparent," social media coordinator LaToya Monah said. ""Are you g-ma or mewaw, grampy or grandpa? Like our page and share your grandparent name!" "Who's the little rock star in your life? Like our page & share pics of your grandkids." If you look at our wall you'll see tons of people sharing their grandparent names, silly things their grandkids have said or done, and photographs of their grandkids."

Interestingly, Grandparents.com's actual website doesn't rely on advertisers as its primary revenue stream. "We are starting to sell insurance, house insurance, and other insurance to this audience," Breslau said. "No one is able to monetize advertising on the web."

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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