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National Anti-Bullying Month has never had this much negative attention attached to it.
The company drew widespread criticism after it pulled its advertising from Gawker Media following Gamergate backlash that stemmed from a sarcastic tweet by Gawker editor Sam Biddle. Following the Gamergate-related threat of a mass shooting that forced gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian to cancel a scheduled campus appearance in Utah earlier this month, Biddle joked on Twitter that we should “bring back bullying” in order to shame Gamergate into silence.
In response, Gamergate proponents accused Biddle and Gawker of promoting bullying. Members of Reddit’s KotakuinAction subreddit subsequently targeted Gawker’s advertisers for complaints about Biddle in order to persuade them to pull their funding from Gawker and its sister sites.
Among the advertisers which responded to their campaign was Adobe, which first reportedly pulled its advertising from Gawker and then apparently took what many deemed a “pro-Gamergate gesture.”
— Adobe (@Adobe) October 21, 2014
We are vehemently opposed to bullying of any kind and would never support any group that bullies.
— Adobe (@Adobe) October 22, 2014
Adobe’s stance dismayed many who viewed the Gamergate hashtag itself as a prime example of bullying and online harassment. Gawker editor Max Read declared that the website had been “rolled by the dishonest fascists of Gamergate,” while Adobe was bombarded with tweets from consumers angry that the company was aligning itself with a campaign they viewed as targeting women, particularly feminists.
According to Adobe, it was all a big misunderstanding. In the update and explanation, issued from its blog, the company claimed that it had been “mistakenly listed” as an advertiser on Gawker, and that it hadn’t actually withdrawn financial support from Gawker since it hadn’t been advertising there to begin with.
Adobe also claimed that the tweets made in apparent “support” of Gamergate were intended to distance the company from Gamergate bullies as well as any other kind. “[C]learly we were not explicit enough,” they said, adding:
We are not and have never been aligned with Gamergate. We reject all forms of bullying, including the harassment of women by individuals associated with Gamergate. Every human being deserves respect, regardless of gender, orientation, appearance, personal hobbies or anything else that makes individuals who they are.
Meanwhile, though Adobe seems to have put its missteps to rest, it’s possible that supporters of National Anti-Bullying Month are wishing that their annual awareness-raising campaign fell at a different time of the year. Gamergate supporters, without any apparent hint of irony, latched on to their cause in order to get Adobe as well as Mercedes-Benz to pull advertising from Gawker. (Mercedes-Benz quickly realized its mistake and distanced itself from Gamergate.)
Though these temporary victories might have fueled Gamergate, that mostly tweets harassment at prominent women in gaming, it’s undoubtedly made the Internet feel a little less safe for the rest of us.
But at least now we can resume our monthly Creative Cloud subscriptions without any guilty twinges.
Photo by William Hook/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.