Visiting Dignitaries

Miley Cyrus Starts Campaign for Emoji Equality

Ms. Cyrus (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

Miley Cyrus had a brush with social advocacy last year when she recorded Occupy Wall Street’s unofficial theme song, “Liberty Walk.”  But since then, she’s remained pretty quiet on any issues of equality. In 2012, she’s cut her hair several times, most notably when she got rid of her bun, which put popular fan account @Mileys_Bun in an awkward position.

But now Ms. Cyrus is back to the fight with a new issue. Yes, Ms. Cyrus has something that all Americans can get behind — Emoji equality. Read More

Teach Me How to Startup

Rap Genius Cofounder Responds to ‘The Haters’ with Yet Another Diss Video

Diss video Rap Genius

Last Friday, Betabeat followed up on reports from author Byron Crawford about offensive racist IMs shared in one of Rap Genius’ editor chatrooms. (For those of you unfamiliar with Rap Genius: A. Where the hell have you been? And B. Here’s our contribution to the cacophony on their $15 million investment from Silicon Valley powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz.)

In response to our questions about the racist chatter, cofounder Mahbod Moghadam dismissed the notion that this was reflective of the Rap Genius community, telling Betabeat that users can gain entry into “Editor Chats,” without being vetted by earning Rap IQ points on the site and that users have used voting rings to game the system in the past. He then blamed hackers for the offensive content, before recanting and saying the parties responsible were merely exploiting a loophole in the system that allowed members to impersonate another user’s name in chat, rather than hacking into the company’s code. Read More

Apple in Your Eye

Fortune Deletes Racist Portion of Its iPad Mini Live Blog: ‘Some Readers Complained About Ethnic Profiling’

Mr. Elmer-DeWitt (Photo: Twitter.com)

This morning’s release of the iPad Mini saw crowds completely forgetting about the hurricane and lining up to score themselves a miniaturized version of their favorite fancy tablet. Apple beat reporter  was covering the release for Fortune/CNN Money. His online bio says that he’s been covering Apple for the last 30 years. He described the scene as such:

“Judging from the ethnic makeup of the queue in front of the big glass cube of Apple’s (AAPL) Fifth Avenue store, however, most of the customers who made the pilgrimage were coming from the environs of Chinatown.

Apple hasn’t yet said when the iPad mini will be available in mainland China, so there’s likely to be a market there for units shipped from the U.S.”

Since Mr. DeWitt didn’t cite a source supporting his Chinatown claim, it seemed like an . . . odd assumption. Read More

Teach Me How to Startup

Mo’ Money for Rap Genius: Impish Ivy Leaguers Raise Millions for Internet Decoder Ring

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Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’ breakout hit, “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowd-sources explanations of hip-hop lyrics, will find nearly every verse annotated by the site’s users, who clocked more than 2 million monthly uniques in August, according to comScore. Click on the line “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening / And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in,” and a pop-up immediately appears explaining that Ms. Banks is employing a metaphor for cunnilingus and that “She stutters the words tongue and deep to mimic the stuttering that occurs when one receives such a gift.” That exegesis received 11 upvotes, earning the contributor jamima-j, a female “slam poetry writer,” a healthy bump in “Rap IQ” points on the site.

Readers might find her analysis either amusing or unnecessary. But the reigning kings of Sand Hill Road, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, view Rap Genius as “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded,” co-founder Ben Horowitz told Betabeat last week. The prominent V.C. firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech start-ups like Facebook, Pinterest, foursquare and Airbnb, often at towering valuations, were the sole investors behind the site’s $15 million Series A. Read More

This Happened

Dude, Where’s My Apology? Pop Chips Recants Racist Brownface Ad, But Ashton Kutcher’s Still Silent

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Update: Forbes reports that Pop Chips ran this same campaign in the UK before launching in that market. The British reaction to it was exactly the same and the spot was pulled after public outcry. “The reasoning seems to come straight from Oscar Wilde and P.T. Barnum (if he actually said “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”),” says Forbes. Wonder if that’s the advice Ashton is giving his startups. 

Correction: Just kidding, Pop Chips PR representatives just confirmed to Betabeat that the Forbes report was wrong. The ad went was only released in the U.S. market. The Forbes blogger read the dates wrong, as well as the country. And yes, as you suspected, no one is going to come out of this looking good. Including bloggers!

Yesterday, Pop Chips unveiled its latest advertising campaign. It involved having spokesman Ashton Kutcher play a variety of characters, including an Indian immigrant named “Raj,” for which Mr. Kutcher painted his face brown and affected an over-the-top accent. Last night, shortly after Anil Dash pointed out that using brownface to hawk bags of potato chips in 2012 was a sign of ingrained racism–and criminally cheeseball–Pop Chips founder and CEO Keith Belling issued an apology on the company blog.

“our team worked hard to create a light-hearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs,” Mr. Belling wrote in all-lower case. “we did not intend to offend anyone. i take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended.” Read More