26 Jun 2018

    People Are Angry With This Dog-Rating Twitter Account For Changing The Names Of Dogs

    They're good names, Brent.

    The creator of super popular Twitter account WeRateDogs Matt Nelson has been accused of "white-washing" after changing the names of dogs submitted for rating. The backlash started when the @dog_rates account changed the name of a dog from its Arabic-origin name "Kanan" to "George".

    twitter.com

    The account, which has almost seven million followers, sells a range of calendars and has its own on-brand clothing line.

    The re-naming was first pointed out in a tweet on Monday. Twitter user Mary Wagner said she had been blocked by the @dog_rates account after pointing out the name change.

    It’s a good day to get blocked by @dog_rates for calling out when they changed a dog’s Arabic-origin name to something extremely white. https://t.co/vefrTZQ2hQ

    But in a response to the outrage @dog_rates owner Nelson sent out a series of tweets from his personal account promising not to change any more of the dog names ("HOLY FUCK").

    I WON’T CHANGE ANY MORE OF THE DOG NAMES HOLY FUCK

    Nelson explained that he had only changed the dog's name after asking the owner, and that he had blocked Wagner because she wouldn't stop tweeting at him. "I can't emphasise how little this had to do with the 'origin' of the name," he said.

    oh god here we go. i asked the owner and he said he didn’t mind. i blocked you because you weren’t following and you weren’t about to stop commenting. i can’t emphasize how little this had to do with the “origin” of the name https://t.co/7fSJOrGXcz

    Later, Nelson also said he had been changing names of dogs since he started the account, with "no rhyme or reason" to the decision.

    And in another tweet Nelson said "white-washing" the names was never his intention. "I always enjoyed changing names. It helped me figure out what people liked," he said.

    I don’t even know how to apologize for this one. I always enjoyed changing names. It helped me figure out what people liked. As long as the owner approved, I thought it was fine. “White-washing” the names was obviously not my intention and it will never happen again

    People were not too impressed with his explanation, accusing him of casual racism, particularly for a now-deleted tweet where he said the name played a "massive role" in the success of the tweet.

    "The name plays a massive role in how well the post does" thank you, @dog_rates, for accidentally discovering the systemic and quantifiable impacts of casual racism, and deciding to participate in it instead of push back against it. https://t.co/yo19yB9e26

    Dog Rates changing the dogs’ names so the posts will get better metrics is the Lance Armstrong doping scandal of our time

    The Dog Rates man is just trying to make an honest living by assigning one of three numbers to other people's pictures, it's a tough job and I defy you to do it and not be racist occasionally

    lol this is so cynical and gross. of course the dog_rates account is like this https://t.co/ooR8PRszZt

    .@dog_rates how did you fuck up rating dogs this bad man https://t.co/aFqydgH62Q

    For what it's worth, the owner of Kanan – the dog at the centre of all this – said he did not want an apology and was just happy to see his dog on the account.

    @matt___nelson Matt, as Kanan's owner, no apology is necessary. I was just thrilled to see my good boy featured on your awesome account. I checked with Kanan, he assures me he didn't mind either. Hopefully you can feature him again someday since u deleted his post.

    @matt___nelson I can confirm. He did ask me and I 100% encouraged him to do so. It is no big deal at all to me. Just enjoy the cute puppy pics people.. after all, it was once written that... "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." - Thank you for featuring my good boy today!

    When approached by BuzzFeed News for comment, Nelson said that while he would usually be open for explaining the situation, "in this case even full transparency can't convince people who hated me before today to not hate me."

    Perhaps surprisingly for a Twitter account designed to rate dogs on cuteness, it's not the first time it has courted controversy. Last year, the account sparked a fight over abortion rights.

    Kanan's owner, @CaponeKnows, did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

    Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

    Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

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