The force takes a dump on Disney ahead of May The 4th

Disney+ committed a really stupid blunder in its marketing communications recently. Reason: Disney’s lawyers! It also had unintended, fake consequences!

First, this is what happened.

May 4th is coming up next week. Considering the iconic Star Wars line, ‘May the Force be with you’ is so closely tied to that date, Disney+ wanted to do a little engagement on Twitter. So, it tweeted this:

Sounds good!

But the immediate next tweet, tweeted together as part of that thread was clearly written by a legal representative and not a marketing/PR person.

That language is a dead giveaway. Usually, brands add such legalese in a terms & conditions website and merely add the URL and say, ‘T&Cs apply. Please see: URL’

Understandably, that 2nd tweet got a flood of angry responses, far removed from the warm, fuzzy responses Disney+ had actually wanted. Most of the reactions are incredibly funny 🙂

So, they added a 3rd tweet to that thread that made things even worse!

This is all incredibly silly and completely unwarranted. But the damage has been done and made it to the New York Times too.

But Disney+’s reputation was further tarnished by a fake allegation too, at the same time, on the same issue!

A Twitter handle named @Falkoopa_ tweeted this.

At first glance, it looks like Disney filed a DMCA notice and this led to Twitter locking this user’s account! But that is misleading, perhaps intentionally so!

But when you search Lumen database for takedown notices to that handle, the last one was served on April 6, 2020!

You dig further to see who sent that DMCA notice (was it Disney? No!):

And what was that tweet that got DMCA’d? That tweet is obviously withheld by Twitter:

But there is always an internet archive to find that tweet. So, here it is!

So, the simple facts:
1- The DMCA notice to Falkoopa was NOT by Disney or Disney+
2- It wasn’t related to the screenshots Falkoopa tweeted about Disney+

But, once again, the damage is done.

Another user, Alexander Trovini shared Falkoopa_’s tweet and it literally caught fire, with 33K Likes and 8K+ retweets. Even Falkoopa_’s tweet has 2.5K retweets and 9K+ Likes.

And that tweet where Falkoopa used the screenshot of Disney+’s 2 tweets is still up online!

These are based on a fake allegation – a tweet that is crafted to look like Disney+ did something… but they actually didn’t! And given the legalese they had used earlier, it is very easy to conclude that they indeed do what is framed here. But… they didn’t!

But, this one lie, cleverly and topically constructed, further added to Disney+’s already silly legalese on Twitter.

Disney+ was reasonably prompt to respond to the first imbroglio, though with a silly rejoinder that made things worse, but it wasn’t sharp enough to identify this fake allegation and context to that to stem the progressively worsening reputational damage. For people seeing the fake tweet, it was easy to jump to the wrong conclusion that it was based on Disney+’s earlier legalese.

Basic PR and corporate communications lessons:
1- Do not let your legal team write your consumer-facing communication.
2- Always keep listening to what is the buzz around your brand. And act in time to safeguard your corporate reputation.