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Activists hijack Sochi Olympics sponsors’ PR campaigns

Twitter feeds of corporations flooded with pro-gay messages

Sochi Olympics sponsors including Coca-Cola and McDonald's continue to come under fire for showing what many see as a glaring lack of concern about Russia's anti-gay laws. Credit:
The ‘Share A Coke with…’ campaign’s virtual can displays an error message if users type the words ‘gay’ or ‘homo’ on it.

Online activists are overwhelming the Twitter feeds of Olympics sponsors with pro-gay messages, in a practice called “hashtag hijacking,” The New York Times reports.

McDonald's first promoted the hashtag “#CheersToSochi,” ostensibly to send good-luck messages to Olympic athletes. Since then, the feed has been flooded with messages criticizing Russia’s stance on gay rights.

“McDonald's wants us to #CheerstoSochi to drown out the screams from the beatings of LGBT Youth by Russian security,” one poster wrote today.

The group Queer Nation rejigged a 1970s Coca-Cola commercial, which included the lyrics "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony," adding in footage of gay rights demonstrators under attack.

Coca-Cola itself came under attack when the company posted a social-marketing site on which users could print a name on a virtual Coke can. It turned out that the site would not accept the word “gay,” instead returning this message: “Oops! Let's pretend you didn't just type that. Please try another name.”

Users responded by posting images of Coke cans displaying “Gaybashers,” “Gay Erasure” and “Homophobes.”

Coca-Cola has since apologized for the problem in a statement on its website. It reads in part, "The name and message auto-generator on our South Africa 'Share a Coke' website would not accept the word 'Gay,' but did accept the word 'Straight.' This isn't how the program was supposed to work, and we've pulled the site down until we can fix the problem."