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TechCrunch Posts Homophobic 'Fags' Slur with Twitter Story


A reader sent in this note, regarding today's TechCrunch story on Twitter:

"In today's TechCrunch (the leading technology-news blog, a very, very powerful voice here in the Bay Area and beyond), one of the writers posted a story on why TechCrunch covers Twitter so much. Well, in publishing the story, TechCrunch used the attached image, which reads 'Why Twitter is not lame (or for fags).' After people complained about TechCrunch not only putting up a homophobic image but blasting it out through all of its various feeds, the writer, Robin Wauters, left the image up but blurred out the ('or for fags') text. When people complained about it in the comments section, the writer was very defensive and catty. Wauters refused to apologize (and is still refusing). Only after he was slammed repeatedly did he remove the link to the original creator of the image (DarkMotion). His final response in the blog? 'Image removed, link deleted.' He put a note in the text that reads 'Image from DarkMotion: no link because the original image contains a word that is offensive to some.' Perhaps it's not a big deal, but if this image had read 'or for n***ers' in brown text, this story would have made the cover of the NYTimes and CNN, and Michael Arrington, the CEO of TechCrunch, would have been on the news begging for forgiveness. But since it's just us fags, so to speak, he can get away with not even apologizing."

The complaints, as of now, are still there in the comments. I read TechCrunch every day. I would have expected better from one of its contributors.

NOTE: I've changed the gender references in the tipster's note so as to avoid confusion.

UPDATE: Wauters has apologized in our comments section: "Hi, I'm the author of the TechCrunch article, and yes I'm a man. I understand why you are all mad at me, and I deserve to be pointed to my own mistakes. That said, I honestly did not see the word when I embedded the image, and I did notice it when it was published. I didn't remove it because of the comments, it was already gone when the first comment came in. I feel sick about all of this, I hate hatred and bigotry, and I would never ever condone the word 'fag' to be used. I'm sorry."

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  1. This is unbelievable. Let's all write her and her site to complain and demand her resignation. I also contacted Twitter to report this.

    Posted by: cal | Feb 12, 2009 1:58:12 PM

  2. Well, someone has decided to sue Miley Cirus over the offensive asian photo---maybe it's time we as gay people do the same. And sue over every stupid offensive superbowl commercial, ad, photo, or slap on the wrist basher sentence we come across. I know it could come off as frivolous lawsuits but I don't know what's left for us to do? Or how else to get the mainstream media to speak out when we're mocked publicly by corporations all in the name of advertizing. GLAAD start asking to see next year's superbowl ads NOW! And let it be known that if anything offensive gets aired the NFL is going to be sued. It's time. I'm just sayin'...

    Posted by: Mr. Avenjer | Feb 12, 2009 1:59:12 PM

  3. You can't sue people for being offended by them. The 'asian photo' lawsuit is rediculous (I heard it was for like 4 BILLION dollars or something).

    But you can let them know you feel and raise hell without the legal system.

    Posted by: Wes | Feb 12, 2009 2:02:20 PM

  4. Who is she? What's her name? Where does she live? What's her phone number?

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 12, 2009 2:09:02 PM

  5. Andy - I find it odd that you comment that this is not getting national attention and then your last sentence is "I read TechCrunch every day. I would have expected better from one of its contributors." Shouldn't it say "I USED TO read TechCrunch every day. But no longer will be reading it because they do not respect me."?
    Cause and effect works wonders...

    Posted by: BRIAN BIDDLE | Feb 12, 2009 2:12:00 PM

  6. 1. Robin Wauters is MALE.

    2. Fittingly, he was born in ASSe, Belgium.

    3. Having personally won a Blue Ribbon for Troll at the last county fair, I probably shouldn't say this, but judging by his picture it is no wonder he appears to have no life beyond the Internet.

    4. And YES YES YES flood him and everyone who supports him with denouncing e-mails, crash their servers, make them understand that we are "No longer Mr. Nice Fag." In short, act like you DESERVE to be treated with respect.

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Feb 12, 2009 2:16:38 PM

  7. Very good point that if this had been any other form of bigotry instead of directed towards the LGBT community, this would be all over news feeds. It frustrates me to no end that society in general dismissed blatant bigotry towards the LGBT community, yet will not give any one else a pass when it comes to bigotry to any other minority. No one should be given any pass for bigotry towards anyone, yet time and time again the LGBT community is the whipping post for bigotry. The fact that this author did not receive any discipline (such as what Imus received for his god awful racist comment) is baffling.

    Posted by: Cj | Feb 12, 2009 2:17:22 PM

  8. I just clicked on this site and it appears Robin is a man!

    Posted by: cowen | Feb 12, 2009 2:17:42 PM

  9. Someone QUICK, post something similar and use the work N-I-G-G-E-R or K-I-K-E or something like that and see what happens.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Feb 12, 2009 2:18:48 PM

  10. I just clicked on this site and it appears Robin is a man!

    Posted by: cowen | Feb 12, 2009 2:18:54 PM

  11. Totally 100% off topic: Why are commenter's names no longer in orange? I can't tell who's commenting anymore... as such, I accidentally read a comment by Leland.

    Posted by: crispy | Feb 12, 2009 2:27:25 PM

  12. God when is the LGBTQ community going to wake the hell up and realize that America does not like us? I mean, srsly, how can anyone be surprised by this action?

    Our community needs to WTFU (W=Wake instead of S=Shut) and start to take things into its own hand. Stop relying on the politicians, the journalists, etc. and start bonking people over the head with foam baseball bats already!

    NYS Senator Smith told the LGBTQ Community in 2007 that if we helped him take over the NYS Senate so that there would be a Democratic majority, then passing same-sex marriage legislation in the Senate would become a priority and one of the FIRST issues that he would bring to the floor for a vote (it's already passed in the Assembly, and Governor Patterson has promised to sign the bill, which, IIRC, Pataki also said he would do but don't quote me on that). So, now that the Democrats are in control of the NYS Senate and NYS Sen. Smith is speaker/maj. ldr./whatever it's called (can't remember at the moment, need some caffeine...), Sen. Smith conveniently forgets making this statement and now says that it's POSSIBLE that a vote will come to the floor in 2010 but that "we just don't have the votes to bring it to the floor for a vote now."

    Note to you New Yorkers who helped make this a reality (I'm a New Yorker but I didn't vote for the Dem Senator...): Sen. Bruno had the *exact* *same* modus operandi; he said he would allow a marriage bill to come to the floor for a vote *WHEN* *IT* *HAD* *THE* *VOTES* *TO* *PASS*

    Posted by: Peter C. Frank | Feb 12, 2009 2:29:19 PM

  13. Hi, I'm the author of the TechCrunch article, and yes I'm a man.

    I understand why you are all mad at me, and I deserve to be pointed to my own mistakes.

    That said, I honestly did not see the word when I embedded the image, and I did notice it when it was published. I didn't remove it because of the comments, it was already gone when the first comment came in.

    I feel sick about all of this, I hate hatred and bigotry, and I would never ever condone the word 'fag' to be used.

    I'm sorry.

    Posted by: Robin Wauters | Feb 12, 2009 2:34:31 PM

  14. Before everyone gets too riled up..

    Looking at the post and the context, I think the graphic was directly addressing the reeeeeally common bullshit of commenters of geek sites- "Ur so ghey", or "Twitter is 4 fags". I think it's horrible, but yeah, teenage geeks call each other fag ALL THE TIME on anonymous message boards.

    The intention of the graphic seemed more about addressing exactly that- the fanboy types who say "fags", or lame, or "ghey", or whatever. It's speaking to them in their language, even making fun of it.

    IT's awful, juvenile, homophobic, yeah. But stupid punks talk this way, they do call each other 'fags" in comments, all the time. It's pretty abstracted from actual gay people it's a schoolyard insult.

    Devils advocacy over. The writer says he pulled the piece quickly, and it appears he did. Let's not get too hyped about this.

    Posted by: Vincent | Feb 12, 2009 2:35:50 PM

  15. I wrote an email to tech crunch and twitter complaining about this. Robin Wauters actually replied to me apologizing. Hmmmm...

    Posted by: Christian | Feb 12, 2009 2:41:42 PM

  16. People need to learn how to accept apologies. Seriously. Robin has apologized several times and people need to stop jumping on him and dragging this out beyond what it needs.

    Let it go and move on.

    Posted by: Zeke | Feb 12, 2009 2:47:43 PM

  17. Hrm, this is interesting. The statements NOW on the web site in the article are a bit different than what you've quoted. Any chance there was a screenshot taken of the original comments, or did you mis-quote?:

    "Update: our sincere apologies to all who were offended by the original image that we took from another blog, we genuinely didn’t notice that there was such an offensive word on it until 30 seconds after we published. Obviously, it still got caught by some RSS readers, so again, we’re sorry."

    and from recent comments:

    Hrag - February 12th, 2009 at 9:13 am PST

    Why did you include a homophobic line in the image that accompanied the post that went to your feed? That was a disturbing thing to have to see and was not appreciated.

    Robin Wauters - February 12th, 2009 at 9:18 am PST

    I took the image from another post as indicated at the bottom of my article. Didn’t notice until it was published.
    Bart - February 12th, 2009 at 9:30 am PST

    So if you did notice it, you wouldn’t have published it? I don’t see what difference leaving a note at the bottom does. You’re still choosing to use this image. Why don’t you find one that says Facebook’s not for n***ers in brown text and use it in your next post? Don’t forget to credit the source at the bottom of that post too…
    Robin Wauters - February 12th, 2009 at 9:36 am PST

    You probably didn’t pay attention, but I changed the image after 30 seconds or so, after I noticed.
    Community destruction 101 - February 12th, 2009 at 9:46 am PST

    What’s with the catty, defensive response and utter lack of responsibility?

    Maybe “Thanks for noticing and we sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by it” would be appropriate.

    or maybe “Gosh, how embarrassing that I don’t do 2 seconds of visual due diligence when I p2p pictures.”

    It’s stuff like this that makes me really resent that TechCrunch is a must-read. I wish it wasn’t.
    Dave Doyle - February 12th, 2009 at 9:41 am PST

    Be that as it may, it showed up in my feed reader with the homophobic image. A little contrition would be nice.
    Jeff - February 12th, 2009 at 9:41 am PST

    I think the appropriate thing to do here would be to a) apologize for inadvertently offending people and b) take the five minutes to upload a new image so you can remove the credit link and stop providing free traffic to a bigot (DarkMotion), instead of just saying “hey, i blurred out the ‘fag’ part, relax!”
    clayton - February 12th, 2009 at 9:56 am PST

    ohdeargod, what are you guys talking about?

    I feel left out, I didn’t check this as soon as it was posted!

    (Though I could have if I twittered… heh)
    Mike - February 12th, 2009 at 10:07 am PST

    I also was dismayed to see the original image for this post in the feed. The original image is still on TechCrunch’s servers:

    Given the offensiveness of the image, simply attributing your source exacerbates the issue. It drives people to the original and continues to alienate your readers and encourage bigotry.

    Please remove the original image, your modified version, and the link to the source. I’d like to believe this was truly just an oversight and not a lapse of judgment.

    For an organization that prides itself on integrity–with regards to coverage, advertising, NDAs, etc.–I’m surprised and disappointed to see any delay in fixing this.
    Robin Wauters - February 12th, 2009 at 10:11 am PST

    Image deleted, link removed.
    evan - February 12th, 2009 at 10:48 am PST

    “Lame” is offensive to paraplegic people, please correct this immediately, tia
    Robin Wauters - February 12th, 2009 at 10:58 am PST

    Updated the post to reflect how sorry we are. Not at all our intention to offend anyone, and I honestly missed it when I embedded the original image.
    truestory - February 12th, 2009 at 11:32 am PST

    Come on! You seriously think he would have put that up there if he saw anything offensive? He didn’t create the image.

    You have no idea how annoying some of you can be. TC doesn’t require you to read every article, feel free to skip the ones you don’t want to hear about. People just love to complain about not wanting to hear about certain topics and about how it wastes their time but then they of course have to post about it letting us all know that their time really isn’t that important.

    Why don’t you angry nerds step away from the computer and go get some sunlight.

    Posted by: Peter C. Frank | Feb 12, 2009 2:48:50 PM

  18. " I can't tell who's commenting anymore... as such, I accidentally read a comment by Leland."

    LOL! I seriously just spit my drink out. That was f'n' hilarious! Now off to grab some paper towels.

    Posted by: RP | Feb 12, 2009 2:50:23 PM

  19. Robin apologized to me personally through email, also. Was this an accident? More than likely. Irresponsible? Absolutely. BUT, I think we should cut him a little slack. He made updates to the story, personally apologized to those who made comments about it, AND took the time to post here apologizing again.

    After seeing this, hearing from him, and reading these comments, I am fairly convinced that his error was unintentional and he is very apologetic.

    Posted by: Nate | Feb 12, 2009 2:51:38 PM

  20. The Author gets props for coming here and apologizing. Still and all, I'm left wanting.

    I never felt the satisfaction of the bully apologizing to me, in relative privacy at the door of my house with his dad hovering behind him, that I did if he had to apologize to me in front of the people for whom he had committed the original offense (or mistake in this case).

    otherwise all the folks that saw him do the deed never have to know that he made the mistake.

    Posted by: dego | Feb 12, 2009 2:58:15 PM

  21. It's offensive.

    Robin apologized. Good.

    What about the dude that made it?

    maybe he needs to know how thoughtless it is to make something like this.

    Posted by: jimminy | Feb 12, 2009 3:03:54 PM

  22. Mr. Wauters, I thank you for your sincere and kind apology. It is refreshing knowing that someone out there is taking the time to personally apologize for an offense that may have not been from their doing. Thanks again.

    Posted by: Cj | Feb 12, 2009 3:06:50 PM

  23. Fag and Gay are words that are changing meaning over time. I still despise the word "fag' when used as a derogatory statement towards homosexual people but young (mostly) people use gay and fag to mean something different - wimp, sissy, bizarre, geeky, nerdy, stupid, etc. It can be thrown at Straights or Gays and it does not mean homosexual. Many of these folks are homosexual or gay friendly I'm not supporting it or condemning it, so please don't shoot the messenger.

    Posted by: Pugzz | Feb 12, 2009 3:07:32 PM

  24. sent to Michael Arrington via Facebook:

    The casual homophobia you guys exhibited today doesn't cut in 2009. Gay people are beaten and/or deprived of their constitutional rights every day -- we don't need slurs casually hurled at us ("Twitter isn't lame, or for fags" -- your quote) by tech websites. Personally, my marriage was undone in November by a popular vote -- was yours?

    If you had said, "Twitter isn't for..(put any ethnic slur here)".......I think you'd be on CNN apologizing as if your livlihood depended on it. Why is the dignity of gay people worth less?

    Posted by: Chris | Feb 12, 2009 3:14:45 PM


    Posted by: Aaron | Feb 12, 2009 3:20:05 PM

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