Former PR executive Justine Sacco has become a worldwide target for nasty jokes and vicious insults over the weekend after posting a Twitter message mocking AIDS victims.
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” read Sacco’s infamous tweet, posted late Friday as she boarded an 11-hour flight to South Africa.
At the time Sacco was the communications director for the internet company InterActive Corp (IAC), owner of such popular websites as Match.com, Dictionary.com, OkCupid and Vimeo.
Sacco had less than 200 followers, US media reported, but the message soon was forwarded to a staffer at the website BuzzFeed, who re-tweeted it and amplified its readership tenfold.
“Justine Sacco should get fired…” and “Total LOSER!” were some of the milder reactions to Sacco’s message posted on Twitter.
Several Justine Sacco Twitter parody accounts quickly opened, posting mashed-up photos, including one of Sacco being stomped by riot police.
In a few hours, #JustineSacco and #HasJustineLandedYet were trending on Twitter worldwide, especially in the US, Europe and South Africa.
Upon landing in South Africa Sacco deleted the message and her Twitter account, but the damage had already been done.
Even after Sacco’s employer gave her the boot – officially they “parted ways” – on Saturday, the social media world continued to feast on the fallen executive’s faux pas.
Not everyone joined in the kick-her-when-she’s-down mob scene.
“What happen to Justine Sacco last night could only be enjoyed by those diseased by their own self-righteousness,” read one Twitter message.
“Sticks and stones may break bones, but words on Twitter will always hurt you,” read another cautionary tweet.
Sacco’s “offensive comment does not reflect the views and values of IAC”, the company said in a statement.
“We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question,” read the statement. “There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally.”
IAC added that it hopes “that time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core”.
The moral of the story, as several Twitter writers noted, was to think about what you’ve written before posting it.
No word from Sacco, but the website justinesacco.com redirects viewers to the fundraising page for Aid to Africa, a partnership of 85 charities in sub-Saharan Africa.