Commentary Local

Social Media Flame or Fame?

Pizza logo1

Written by TheMole

By Dave Avran

By now you would have read about the massive social media backlash against The Star newspaper for its front page headline of a terrorist leader published together with an  unrelated picture of Muslims praying on the first day of Ramadan.

The paper has duly apologized, saying there was an unfortunate coincidence of the lead story being of a terrorist leader, that led to many of its readers linking the headline and the picture, which was never its intention.

As a former journalist, I know there are several checks and levels a story must go through before it is published so The Star has truly been caught napping. They should really have been more discerning and sensitive to the feelings of our Muslim brethren, what more at the beginning of the holy month.

Dave is one of Malaysia’s pioneer bloggers and founder of MARAH, an active online crime watch movement.

However The Star is not alone for its unfortunate error of judgment. The Arabs are also taking to social media and calling for a boycott of Pizza Hut after one of its Israel branches posted a facebook advert said to “mock” Palestinian hunger strikers.

Pizza Hut has apologised and deleted the post, saying it was “completely inappropriate and does not reflect the values of our brand” and added that “the agency that posted it has been terminated”.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been refusing food since April 17th to protest against Israeli jail conditions, relying on an intake of saltwater. Last week, social media users started an online “Salt Water Challenge” to draw attention to the strike.

The fiasco started when Israeli prison authorities released a video of Marwan Barghouti – who is leading a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons – allegedly secretly eating cookies. Mr Barghouti’s wife has declared that the prison footage is fake.

Pizza Hut used a screen grab from the video and photoshopped a pizza box in the cell. The post in Hebrew read: “Barghouti, if you are going to break your strike, isn’t pizza the better choice?” Protesters immediately took to social media accusing Pizza Hut of making fun of Palestinian prisoners, using English and Arabic hashtags to call for a boycott of the franchise.

“It’s a Palestinian cause but it concerns every Arab and Muslim. Pizza Hut has branches in several Arab countries,” one Gaza-based user tweeted. Another addressed Pizza Hut directly saying: “Thought it’s a ‘smart’ advertisement, would be a hit? Well, yes it is! BDS says HI!”

The BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – is a self-described human rights organisation which supports a boycott of Israel as a form of pressure. Support for the campaign has grown on UK university campuses and has been criticised by some Jewish students.

A BDS Twitter account restyled Pizza Hut’s logo to show a prisoner held behind barbed wire and prison bars, while another showed a pizza boycott sign. Pizza Hut was quick to distance itself from the ad and blame its agency but in reality it must have approved the ad before it was posted on facebook.

Not to be outdone, Pepsi last month came under social media fire in the US for a video showing model Kendall Jenner making her way through a crowd of protesters and coming face to face with a police officer before handing a can of Pepsi to him. The commercial was pulled after it was widely criticized for apparently belittling the Black Lives Matter movement.

The take home here for all of us is to pause, stand back and review your content from all angles before you hit that “post” button.



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