On February 8, 2009, Chris Brown beat up pop megastar and then-girlfriend Rihanna. Five months later, Brown pleaded guilty to a felony assault and was sentenced to community labor, five years probation, and domestic violence counseling. Naturally, someone looking to make a buck off of the millions of ethics dunces who use social media recognized this as an appropriate basis for a game, and paid Snapchat to run their ad, which you can see above.
The “Would You Rather” ad was removed earlier this week, and Snapchat released an apology, saying “The advert was reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines.” What does “in error” mean in such a case, though? It means “we have erroneously been hiring people at high levels with the ethical sensitivity of mollusks, and upon reflection, this was a miscalculation.” What deadness of soul and mind could ever ever explain someone, indeed a chain of employees, seeing an ad mocking domestic abuse and reacting by saying, “Great! Put it up and bill ’em!”
Advertising on Snapchat is purchased through a self-serve advertising platform and subject to review, the company says. Review by incompetents, creeps and fools, apparently. Unfortunately, they are far from unique.
Rihanna posted a rebuke to Snapchat on Instagram, writing in part,
“I’d love to call it ignorance but I know you ain’t that dumb. You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV victims and made a joke of it.”
No, they made money by posting the joke, which is worse. Snapchat lost an estimated $800,000,000 in value as an immediate result of Rihanna’s post. Good. This promtped another desperate apology:
“This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service. We are so sorry we made the terrible mistake of allowing it through our review process”
It obviously wasn’t “disgusting” enough to trigger the rudimentary ethics alarms of a lot of Snapchat employees. There is a larger and more threatening societal problem that this episode points to: we are giving more and more power over our culture to a narrowly-focused, tunnel-visioned, machine-obsessed and socially-retarded group of perpetual adolescents. The irresponsible conduct increasingly exhibited by Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech giants is predictable, as is their abuse of the growing influence they have over our values and choices. Too many of these people lack an ethics chip, and we allow them to mold our minds and values at mortal peril.