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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Twitter asks for Justine Sacco with #HasJustineLandedYet

If anyone used to make fun of the African continent online, s/he will have to think again from now on. On her way to South Africa, Justine Sacco shared a message that sets the twittersphere on fire with the #HasJustineLandedYet hashtag.


On December, 2013, Justine Sacco, the communications director for InterActiveCorp also known as IAC, posted a twitter message about Africa, AIDS and race. Posted in London, the twitter message stated: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS, Just kidding. I'm white!"

According to the official website, IAC is one of the largest family of websites comprised of more than 150 brands and products including Ask.com, Match.com, The Daily Beast. The American internet company is headquartered in New York City. 

Even though Sacco's Twitter and Facebook accounts are now deleted, the message has caused the worldwide trend #HasJustineLandedYet while she was on her way to South Africa.

According to the New York Times and BuzzFeed, the communications professional has an history of posting questionable twitter messages and her company described Sacco's last message as "an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC." No one knows whether Sacco's Twitter account was hacked

One thing is certain, emotions run high among Twitter users; some plead for mercy on behalf of Justine Sacco, others shared their anger or disbelief.



The issue is very personal to me as a communications professional from Cameroon, a beautiful country located in Central Africa. As stated earlier, no one knows whether her account was hacked. If it was not the case, the tweet was wrong and offensive for Africans and anyone living with AIDS. Added to Ms.Sacco's  professional background, the situation is very confusing and shocking.

The unfortunate #HasJustineLandedYet trending reminds us of the the power of today's social media (Twitter, Facebook). Whoever will decide to post offensive comments about the continent of Africa will hopefully think again.

After sending the statement to South African newspaper The Star on Sunday, December 22nd, Sacco delivered the following public apology to ABC news:
Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet," Sacco said. "There is an AIDS crisis taking place in this country, that we read about in America, but do not live with or face on a continuous basis. Unfortunately, it is terribly easy to be cavalier about an epidemic that one has never witnessed firsthand.  
For being insensitive to this crisis -- which does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation, but which terrifies us all uniformly -- and to the millions of people living with the virus, I am ashamed.  
This is my father's country, and I was born here. I cherish my ties to South Africa and my frequent visits, but I am in anguish knowing that my remarks have caused pain to so many people here; my family, friends and fellow South Africans. I am very sorry for the pain I caused. 
She was fired by her company InterActive Corp (IAC) that has issued a statement  describing Socco as "a decent person at core."

"There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally," the IAC statement said. "We hope, however, that time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core."

Aid for Africa, a partnership of 85 charities, turns the situation into a good one. The relief organization registered the domain name justinesacco.com and had it redirect to their site on Friday.