Shopee Indonesia in hot soup for reportedly mocking sexual abuse victims in ad

Shopee Indonesia has been called out by netizens for an ad posted on social media that seemingly mocked victims of sexual harassment and abuse. According to screenshots circulating on Twitter, the ad in question showed a woman telling her story of being sexually harassed on a dating app through multiple screenshots of conversation between her and the harasser. The conversation then showed the man sending an image to the woman, and upon opening, it was a promotional ad for Shopee concerning its 2.2 Men Sale.

The post, which supposedly imitated women warning about the dangers of dating apps, was reportedly a paid one according to Reuters, and was initially posted on an Instagram gossip account known as @lambe_turah. A quick check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE showed that the Instagram post on @lambe_turah has been taken down. 

Shopee's spokesperson told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it "sincerely apologises for the insensitive content". "We have deleted the ad and will continue to strengthen our evaluation processes," the spokesperson said. Meanwhile, its director Handhika Jahja told Reuters that it would not repeat the mistake, adding that sexual harassment is an issue that "needs to be handled with great care and seriousness". Jahja also said it should not be turned into a joke or a promotion.

The tweet that first brought this advertisement to light has garnered 16.5k likes and 9,576 retweets. Many netizens expressed their anger in response to the tweet, with some questioning the intention behind the ad. One netizen even claimed that Shopee has used trauma victim abuse as advertising material. The tweet also sparked an online boycott, with multiple netizens using the hashtag #UninstallShopee on social media. According to Google trends, web searches of the hashtag #UninstallShopee trended on 2 February in Indonesia with 100 mentions, when the advertisement was reportedly first posted on Instagram. The hashtag was then continuedly used throughout the week, its next highest mention being on 6 February with 43 searches.

This incident comes just two weeks after Shopee topped the charts for YouGov’s annual BrandIndex Buzz Rankings in 2020 in Indonesia, and was ranked the most positively talked about brand in the country. This was also Shopee's second time being ranked first onYouGov's Buzz Rankings list in Indonesia. Additionally, on a regional front, Shopee also ranked first place in YouGov's list for "Best APAC buzz rankings 2020", which measures the buzz of brands across Asia Pacific in 2020. 

Separately, merchants on Shopee's platform in Singapore were recently caught promoting products such as binoculars and spy cameras with images of unknowing women being watched. The images insinuated that the products could be used to spy on females in their own homes or far away on a beach. A quick check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE also saw that there were also listings that promoted similar products using lewd images of the female anatomy. The listings have since been removed, and according the Shopee, the merchants involved have been issued a warning. 

"Shopee has a zero-tolerance approach towards errant and offensive listings, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action against sellers who do not abide by its stipulated guidelines," a spokesperson from Shopee Singapore told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE previously.

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