US video-greeting company says it’s ‘safer than it’s ever been’ after celebs duped into taping anti-Semitic messages

  • TECH
  • Friday, 07 Dec 2018

Steven Galanis, back row second from left, co-founder and CEO of start up Cameo, and some of the staff seen here at the company location within 1871 in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Cameo is a start up that lets fans book personalized video shoutouts from celebrities, athletes and reality stars. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

CHICAGO: Cameo, a company that allows people to pay for personalised video greetings from athletes, celebrities and social media influencers, has been having a banner year. 

The two-year-old company recently raised US$12.5mil (RM52.07mil) in a funding round led by Silicon Valley firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. Cameo made Time magazine's 2018 Genius Companies list in October. The platform was also honoured that month at the Chicago Innovation Awards. 

Then last week, it was reported that an account associated with an anti-Jewish group had tricked former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, comedian Andy Dick and rapper Soulja Boy into making Cameo videos using coded anti-Semitic language. Cameo CEO and co-founder Steven Galanis told the Tribune that the message Favre made was uploaded to YouTube and labeled "Brett Favre calls out the Jews". Galanis called the videos a "wake-up call for us". 

"If you actually listen to the video, the video itself was very benign or it seemed to be very benign. It seemed to have been in reference to some veteran group, when in actuality, it was coded language that the alt-right was using to kind of rally troops," said Galanis, 30. "It had gone viral on 4chan and some of the hate websites, and that's when we became aware of it." 

Galanis said his team determined who booked the Favre video, banned that user and contacted YouTube and Instagram to request the video be taken off their sites. The Cameo team created a system over the weekend to monitor incoming orders and flag requests that may contain hate speech, symbols and/or groups, Galanis said. 

The company is also working on features to help its roster of talent better understand the orders they receive and determine if the instructions contain language that would violate the platform's terms of service, which prohibits users from posting, sharing or requesting anything that is illegal, abusive, profane or hateful. Since its inception, Cameo has allowed its talent to decide for themselves which fan requests to complete. Cameo takes 25% of the booking fee, which varies among celebrities. 

Favre pledged Saturday to donate US$500 (RM2,082) – the price he charges to make a Cameo message – to charity. 

"On Nov 22, I received a request to record a shout-out supporting what appeared to be a US veterans organisation for Cameo, a company that enables consumers to book personalised video greetings from celebrities," Favre wrote on Facebook. "I had previously fulfilled more than 50 of these requests without incident. Since I match service dogs with military veterans who have PTSD, I assumed that the request stemmed from my interest in veterans affairs and recorded the message." 

Galanis, who met Favre while he was in Milwaukee for a weekend reunion of the 1996 Green Bay Packers team, said Favre's donation will go to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an organisation that monitors hate groups, and Cameo will match the donation. 

Meanwhile, Soulja Boy apologised for his video and said he didn't know it had a negative meaning. A representative for Dick said the comedian "feels used and manipulated by people who presented themselves as his fans but obviously wildly missed his intent". Galanis said none of the hundreds of boldface names who use the platform have indicated they are leaving because of the incidents. 

"One of the things that we've told our talent is, 'Look, we've done 93,000 of these videos, and this is literally the first time we've ever had to pull any'. I think just with anything, there's bad actors. There was a point where somebody sent the first mean tweet on Twitter, somebody (posted) the first objectionable piece of content on YouTube or Facebook," Galanis told the Tribune. 

"I think to some degree, bad actors are inevitable, but we just wanted to make it really clear to our talent that we built in new protections for them and Cameo today is safer than it's ever been." – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service 

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Did you find this article insightful?


Across The Star Online