How did Gawker, the sarcastic gossip blog, turn a well-intentioned corporate social media campaign into a promotion of sorts for Adolf Hitler?
The fiasco started during the Super Bowl last weekend, when Coca-Cola announced its “Make It Happy” social media campaign. Coke asked people to tag negative or hateful tweets with the hashtag #MakeItHappy; those tweets were then fed into an encoding system that converted the text into cute images.
One of these tagged tweets contained the “14 words” white nationalist slogan made into the shape of a dog. Gawker saw this and apparently did not take the time to understand the logic behind the campaign.
— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) February 2, 2015
“Even when the text is shaped like a dog, it is disconcerting to see Coca-Cola, the soda company, urge its social-media followers to safeguard the existence and reproduction of white racists,” Max Read wrote on Gawker.
So Gawker decided to set up an automated Twitter account, or bot, called @MeinCoke that continuously churned out 140 characters of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” tagged with the #MakeItHappy hashtag, at a time. That effectively tricked Coke’s Twitter account into tweeting out sections of “Mein Kampf” – albeit in the shape of cute animals and other feel-good visuals – for a few hours on Tuesday morning.
“It is highly unfortunate that Coca-Cola’s attempt to encourage all of us to make using the Internet a more positive experience encountered this roadblock, and also revealing of how pervasive the challenge is,” Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “However, it would be a shame and a mistake to abandon the campaign itself.”
Coca-Cola also issued a statement that read: “It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t … Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.”
Coke may have set itself up this time, but perhaps the Internet is just not ready for a campaign that attempts to spread happiness.