Adobe walks into Gamergate, staggers around confusedly

Adobe is the second major US tech firm to blunder into Gamergate, the hashtag crusade aimed at female game developers, feminists, and the journalists accused of helping them ruin manly game culture.

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The company publicly named and shamed Gawker--where a Gamergate-critical staffer had tweeted an ill-considered joke about bullying--in response to a request asking @adobe to remove its advertising from his employer's website. Not long after responding to the #gamergate-tagged tweet, though, Adobe appeared to backtrack: first, a product manager wrote that the tweet was a case of "mistaken identity," without elaborating. Then Adobe restated its criticism of "bullying," without reference to either Gamergate or Gawker. Then it stopped responding to Ars Technica's inquiries.

The tweet attracted a wide variety of responses, alternating between support from active #GamerGate participants and accusations that Adobe was allying with a "hate group." People who made the latter statement linked to a recent Gawker network report breaking down statements and tactics that had been linked to #GamerGate.

Adobe product manager Divya Manian later responded to the Adobe tweet by saying, "We are working on it; it was a case of mistaken identity," without clarifying whose identity was mistaken (as the earlier post came from Adobe's confirmed, blue-checkmark Twitter account). Manian also retweeted a comment by threatened game developer and #GamerGate critic Brianna Wu that read, "I just got off the phone with Adobe. Stay tuned," implying that a reversal of course would follow.

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On Tuesday night, Adobe sent Ars an e-mail that said, "Please read our Twitter response to this matter." The e-mail then linked to a single sentence from Adobe's official Twitter account, which read, "We are vehemently opposed to bullying of any kind and would never support any group that bullies." That Twitter feed did not clarify whether the company was accusing anybody in particular of bullying, but the original tweet about Gawker remained live on Adobe's feed.

Our questions about whether the company believed Gawker promotes bullying, or what Divya Manian meant about "mistaken identity," were left unanswered.

The outcome mirrors a similar stumble by chipmaker Intel, which announced that it was withdrawing advertising support for a Gamergate-critical website--and was subsequently obliged to issue a press release, at 5:30 p.m., on a Friday evening, to remind women that it knows they have the same rights as men.

Speculation here: if a pattern is emerging, it may be because in most large companies, the people who do the marketing and advertising are not the people who do public relations. PR often has to clean up marketing screwups, but it doesn't get to tell marketing where to spend its money. It's a safe bet that whoever was manning the currently-silent @adobe feed is getting a sharp reminder today on which manager they work for.

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