Brands including PornHub and Disney are trying to prove how 'woke' they are by supporting Black Lives Matter but it's backfiring

Joanna Taylor
Sunday 07 June 2020 14:45
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(Getty)

The world is talking about #BlackLivesMatter right now, so of course brands are trying to get involved.

Corporations have a long and proud history of muscling their way into social justice movements and co-opting their messages to make themselves look good.

So when protests sprung up across the US and the world after the death of George Floyd, many companies put out cursory statements of support.

But this has massively backfired in most cases, as people point out the hypocrisy of brands like Amazon and TikTok voicing their support for Black Lives Matter while failing to address internal issues.

These are the biggest brands who have attracted controversy by claiming to support Black Lives Matter.

Amazon

Amazon tweeted that they "stand in solidarity with the Black community", despite the fact that research suggests their facial recognition technology has racial bias. Several people also responded to their tweet saying "pay your workers a living wage".

In response to a request for comment, an Amazon spokesperson said:

"To thank employees and help meet increased demand, we’ve paid our team and partners nearly $800m extra since Covid-19 started while continuing to offer full benefits from day one of employment. With demand stabilised, we’ll return to our industry-leading starting wage of $15 an hour (and up). We’re proud that our minimum wage is more than what most others offer even after their temporary increases in recent months, and we hope they’ll do the right thing for the long term and bring their minimum pay closer to ours."

Nextdoor

Another brand which voiced its support was private social network Nextdoor.

The app is frequently accused of enabling racial profiling, as its "crime and safety" category can be used to report anything its users deem "suspicious'" behaviour.

A Nextdoor spokesperson said:

"As a community-building platform, we explicitly prohibit racial profiling and take this issue extraordinarily seriously. We overhauled our safety post flow to help educate members around bias and force people to slow down and think before they post which reduced problematic posts by 75 per cent. Today, less than 0.001 per cent of all posts on Nextdoor are related to racial profiling, and we have continued to make product and process changes to drive this down over time. That being said, even one incident is too many, and we remain committed to the hard work — listening to and learning from experts and our members and taking action to improve our product and make Nextdoor a platform where all neighbours feel welcome."

Pretty Little Thing

Fast fashion company Pretty Little Thing is notorious for co-opting social justice campaigns for its marketing.

They tweeted and deleted a post that immediately sparked a backlash for failing to depict a black hand with anything even remotely resembling a natural skin colour.

A PLT spokesperson said:

"Like millions across the globe, everyone at PrettyLittleThing has been shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of George Floyd. We are proud of our ability to use our platform to raise awareness of important issues and we do not shy away from tackling difficult matters. We do however want to recognise Jackie Aina for using her voice to ensure that we used ours. We are very sorry for any offence we caused with the original image we used, this was clearly not our intention and we sincerely apologise. We continuously look for ways to support our wonderfully diverse community and our donations are just the first step to ensure all cultures, races and body shapes are represented throughout our social media channels and campaigns."

Revolve

YouTuber Jackie Aina also shared her disgust with fashion company Revolve for calling for "healing and spreading love" in the wake of George Floyd's death. The lack of diversity amongst influencers chosen to represent Revolve on a trip to Thailand in 2018 sparked the viral hashtag #RevolveSoWhite.

Revolve has been contacted for comment.

Twitter

Twitter's own Twitter account now has the bio '#BlackLivesMatter'. The social media is regularly criticised failing to remove the accounts and tweets of white supremacist trolls.

Twitter has been contacted for comment.

Netflix

While Netflix's tweet in support of Black Lives Matter garnered 1 million likes, some pointed out that it could be doing more to promote inclusion in its shows.

Netflix has been contacted for comment.

TikTok

TikTok has faced numerous controversies over people posting racist videos.

TikTok has been contacted for comment.

YouTube

Last year a white YouTube executive called the police on a black man who was waiting for his friend in their apartment building in California.

The video site itself has also been criticised for hosting alt-right videos.

YouTube has been contacted for comment.

L'Oreal Paris

Munroe Bergdorf, who was dropped as a L'Oreal Paris partner in 2017 for speaking out against racism, has slammed the company for their "hypocritical" Black Lives Matter Instagram post.

L'Oreal said that Bergdorf's comments in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia were "at odds with its values".

L'Oreal Paris has been contacted for comment.

Grindr

To celebrate the fact that black lives matter, dating app Grindr generously announced that it would remove the ethnicity filter from its app, after years of defending the feature.

A Grindr spokesperson said:

"Racism has no place in our community. To help do our part, we have decided to remove the ethnicity filter from the Grindr app. Once the filter is removed, users will no longer be able to filter profiles by ethnicity. We thank all of those that have provided feedback. We listened and we will continue to fight racism on Grindr, both through dialogue with our community and a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech on our platform."

PornHub

You can literally search for "racist" PornHub videos and be met with hundreds of results.

PornHub has been contacted for comment.

NFL

America's National Football League claimed to be "committed" to addressing systemic racism, despite exiling Colin Kaepernick for sitting out the national anthem to protest racial oppression in the US.

The NFL has been contacted for comment.

Disney

Disney opened its purse and pledged $5m to social justice groups. But some pointed out a lack of diversity among the people they work with.

Disney declined to offer a comment.

A tweet or a change of profile picture in support of Black Lives Matter is nothing more than performative if the brand sharing it fails to address their own issues with racism.

To be clear, some of the companies above have matched their statements with donations.

But every company should be reviewing its hiring policies and looking at the diversity of its own executive boards before showering itself with praise for supporting Black Lives Matter.

With protesters risking their lives to take to the streets, its clearer than ever that social justice is more than just a hashtag.

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