Coca-Cola has been forced to end its #Makeithappy automated Twitter campaign after pranksters tricked it into tweeting chunks of text from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
The ad campaign, launched during the Super Bowl last Sunday, was asked Twitter users to mark negative tweets with the #MakeItHappy hashtag. Then, Coca-Cola had set up an algorithm to turn the words into cute art images using ASCII lettering code.
But U.S. gossip site Gawker hijacked the campaign, sending text from the introduction to Mein Kampf, the German dictator’s autobiography in which he outlines his political ideas, with the #MakeItHappy hashtag.
Before it discovered the prank, Coca-Cola had sent out tweets such as “German-Austria must be restored to the great German Motherland. And not indeed on any grounds of economic calculation whatsoever. No, no” turned into a cute smiley face, and “My father was a civil servant who fulfilled his duty very conscientiously,” which became a pirate ship image.
By Wednesday, the campaign had been suspended and the tweets had been taken off the internet, though Gawker continues to post some of the images.
“The #MakeItHappy message is simple: the internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t,” a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said in a statement to AdWeek.
“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,” the statement read.
Gawker claimed it had discovered a #MakeItHappy tweet with the 14 words of a white racist slogan "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children” with a cute image of a mouse before it began testing the campaign’s algorithm with chunks of Mein Kampf.
Automated bots have a mixed record, and are often set up to send spam, as well as retweet any message, regardless of content.
On Thursday, Twitter CEO Dick Costello admitted the network fails to protect users from cyberbullying and trolls.
In a leaked memo, Costolo said he was "ashamed" that Twitter continues to allow people to be subjected to vicious attacks.