Delta Airlines has been accused of â€œracismâ€ and forced to apologise after a tweet it posted about the World Cup portrayed Ghana with a picture of a giraffe â€“ despite the fact that there are no giraffes in Ghana.
The tweet congratulated the US football team for its 2 â€“ 1 victory over the African nation last night, and the airlineâ€™s social media team clearly wanted to represent this with a striking image.
The Statue of Liberty was understandably chosen to stand for the US but, in a choice described as â€œracial stereotypingâ€ by one football writer, the airline displayed a distinct lack of local knowledge by using a picture of the long-necked animal to represent Ghana.
Large swathes of Africa are giraffe-free â€“ including Ghana and the majority of its West African neighbours. Twitter user Tom Chaplin wrote: â€œWhat do giraffes have to do with Ghana?â€
Another (@demimoiselle) said the tweet showed Delta thought that â€œGhana = Africa = giraffeâ€, and a New Jersey-based blogger (@zellieimani) described it as the â€œmost ignorant and racist thing this weekâ€.
Others came to the airlineâ€™s defence, however, describing the incident as â€œignoranceâ€ not â€œracismâ€. Brian Hennigan tweeted: â€œBeing racist and not knowing where giraffes live are two different things, leave Delta alone.â€
A screenshot of the Delta tweet captured before it was deleted
But Andy Cussen, an Australian football writer covering the World Cup, said: â€œIt's racial stereotyping which is a form of racism. Sorry if people are offended by people being offended.â€
The original tweet has since been removed by Delta, and replaced with an apology reading: â€œWeâ€™re sorry for our choice of photo in our previous tweet. Best of luck to all teams.â€
The airline has since told The Independent that it will be â€œreviewingâ€ its use of social media in the wake of the incident. A spokesperson said the use of an image of a giraffe to represent Ghana was â€œboth inaccurate and inappropriateâ€.
We're sorry for our choice of photo in our previous tweet. Best of luck to all teams.
â€” Delta (@Delta) June 17, 2014
â€œAs a global airline, we understand the role images play in shaping global perceptions,â€ the spokesperson said. â€œWe also recognize our responsibility to create messages that are both accurate and inclusive. We take this responsibility seriously.
â€œYesterday, we failed to meet this responsibility. For this, we sincerely apologise.
â€œWe have removed the image and are reviewing our processes to ensure that future images and posts reflect both our values and our global focus.â€
This is not the first time an airline and social media have come together with disastrous results.
In April, US Airways was forced to apologise after it responded to complaints on its official Twitter feed by posting an extremely graphic sexual image.
That same month, a misjudged tweet by a 14-year-old girl â€œthreateningâ€ American Airlines resulted in her being arrested by police in Rotterdam.
And Justine Saccoâ€™s name trended around the world when she posted a racist â€œjokeâ€ on the social media site before boarding a long-haul flight to South Africa last year.