According to research by the Holocaust Memorial Trust, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook now account for 59% of all hate crime. But some users are fighting back – and not in the way you might expect.
@LuckyBastards_ is a Twitter account which claims to “turn hateful Bastards into lucky windfalls, for good causes”. It achieves this by messaging people who have used the word “Bastards” in a bigoted way and telling them that their tweet has generated a donation to the targets of their venom. For instance, anti-refugee tweets might result in a gift to the Refugee Council whereas homophobic tweets might translate into money for Stonewall. The tone is deliberately jaunty (“Thanks for playing #LuckyBastards !”) and messages end with a kiss, leaving the keyboard warriors unsure how to respond.
The initiative was launched last year, by ad agency Lucky Generals (who are perhaps better known for much bigger campaigns, for the likes of Amazon, Budweiser and Yorkshire Tea).
Lucky Generals founder Andy Nairn explains: “We obviously work in the media ourselves and use platforms like Twitter and Facebook for our clients. So we can see their advantages and positive uses. But like many others, we’ve been increasingly disturbed by the way these channels are being used to spread hatred. The obvious response would have been to target the bigots with equally aggressive messages of our own but we felt that fighting fire with fire would only inflame the situation. We wanted to show a better side of humanity and make people smile rather than scream – so Lucky Bastards was born.”
At first, the account was run anonymously. Nairn explains: “We didn’t want to expose our staff to potential retaliation and also enjoyed watching people guess who was behind the idea. But as the initiative became more and more popular and started getting written about by bloggers, our involvement became harder to conceal – thankfully, with no ill consequences.”
So far, @LuckyBastards_ has made around 200 donations, totalling £2,000 to scores of good causes, big and small. And with the hatred showing no sign of stopping, neither will the account (just last week, it made a donation to an anti-islamophobia account, after someone accused “Muslim bastards” of burning down Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Nairn acknowledges that the money represents a mere drop in the ocean of poison but argues that: “The response from the online community makes it all worthwhile. Loads of people have contacted us to say that this is the best thing on Twitter and the charities themselves have expressed their gratitude, not just for the money raised but for the exposure we’ve given them. At a time when there’s so much hatred in the world, it feels good to spread a little hope.”