Adidas has apologized after trolls took advantage of an automated promotion it was running to send out tweets from the sneaker manufacturer’s official account calling for the death of Jews.
The problems started after Adidas’s British subsidiary launched a campaign in which users who retweeted an ad would have their Twitter handle automatically placed on the back of an image of a soccer jersey that would be shared to the firm’s more than 832,000 followers.
The automated nature of the campaign meant that Adidas was initially unaware when users generated content on its account with usernames such as @GasAllJewss.
“@GasAllJewss This is home. Welcome to the squad,” Adidas wrote in a subsequently deleted tweet.
For posterity: pic.twitter.com/wN47qoG0Ai
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) July 2, 2019
The tweet remained up for hours until it was noticed by Adidas.
“As part of our partnership launch with Arsenal we have been made aware of the abuse of a Twitter personalisation mechanic created to allow excited fans to get their name on the back of the new jersey,” a spokesperson told The Guardian. “Due to a small minority creating offensive versions of this we have immediately turned off the functionality and the Twitter team will be investigating.”
Adidas has previously run into trouble online, sending out a promotional email in 2017 that praised participants in the Boston Marathon for having survived the race. Three people died and hundreds were injured when a bomb was set off at the finish line four years earlier.
Other large corporation have also had to contend with promotions going awry and entering anti-Semitic territory. In 2016, tech giant Microsoft had to pull the plug on a Twitter-based chatbot after it began tweeting out racial slurs and denying the Holocaust.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, more than one-third of Americans experienced severe online hate and harassment in 2018. The incidents experienced by some 37 percent of Americans included stalking, physical threats or sustained harassment, and were more than double the 18 percent who reported such experiences in 2017.