Coke #MakeItHappy Campaign Proves the Dangers of Twitter Bots

Article by Caroline Ferrari | esPResso Committee Member

Image courtesy of Lizzie_2985/ Flickr

Image courtesy of Lizzie_2985/ Flickr

During the Big Game, Coca-Cola launched its new “Make It Happy” campaign, an effort to “tackle the pervasive negativity polluting social media feeds and comment threads across the internet,” according to a press release from the company. Coca-Cola encouraged people to send negative tweets with the hashtag #MakeItHappy and a Twitter account would use an automatic algorithm to turn the words from the tweets into positive images.

Though an interesting idea in theory, Coca-Cola soon learned the dangers of using bots to run a Twitter account. The media company Gawker wanted to test the automatic account and created a post with the “Fourteen Words” white nationalist slogan. This tweet was turned into a balloon dog. But Gawker did not stop there. Editor Max Read said in an article published to Gawker, “If we asked Coca-Cola to retweet, for example, the first four paragraphs of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, would it? As it turns out, yes.”

Gawker proved this by creating its own twitter bot, @MeinCoke, which tweeted lines from “Mein Kampf” with Coke’s hashtag and the text was turned into pictures of animals. For hours, Coca-Cola continued to tweet words of Adolf Hitler’s autobiography until the company finally noticed the context of the text and the campaign was shut down.

In a statement to AdWeek Coca-Cola said,

“It’s unfortunate Gawker made it a mission to break the system, and the content they used to do it is appalling. All of this reinforces the need for a change online. We hope people continue to spread happiness with us and show no tolerance for haters and hackers.”​

Though Gawker demonstrated the cruelty of the Internet and negativity found online, Coca-Cola left itself vulnerable. Business Insider made the point that the company should have planned for this kind of sabotage. Had someone approved content before the algorithm could run or kept closely monitoring the bot, it would not have subjected itself to mockery and messages of hatred. By taking human interaction out of its Twitter account, Coca-Cola had to end its campaign for the same reason it started.

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