History Repeats Itself: Twitter Launches Illegal SF Street Stencil Campaign Just As IBM DId Decades Ago

from the oops dept

Everything old is new again, and the population of tech workers seems to turn over especially fast in the San Francisco Bay Area. I guess I now qualify as an old timer, in that I remember quite clearly when IBM ran a big ad campaign in San Francisco and Chicago to profess its newfound love for Linux. The ad campaign involved stenciling three symbols side-by-side: a peace symbol, a heart, and Tux, the Linux penguin:

The message? Peace, Love, Linux. It didn’t make much sense then either. Either way, neither city was happy with the streets being all stenciled up. San Francisco fined IBM $100,000 for graffiti, though perhaps the company figured that was cheaper than buying a bunch of billboards in the same area, and it certainly got more press attention. The story was even more fucked up in Chicago, however. There, one of the random dudes IBM’s ad company had hired to paint this ad message all over sidewalks was arrested and sentenced to community service for vandalism. Not great.

So, apparently no one working at Twitter was around for that experience nearly two decades ago, because the company has just done the same thing. Just a few days ago I was at the Powell Street BART station and saw it was completely coated in giant posters of tweets, but apparently they’re stenciled on sidewalks nearby as well (I seemed to have missed those)

San Francisco wasted little time in pointing out to Twitter that, uh, this is not allowed:

Apt or not, the stencils, created using a spray-paint-like chalk, are illegal, according to Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

?That?s not the use of the sidewalks,? she said. ?We can go and document them. If they don?t remove them immediately, we?ll send a crew to remove them and charge them.?

Gordon added, ?Our sidewalks are not to be used for commercial billboards. Twitter has the resources to use appropriate venues to advertise their company.?

Twitter has apparently already apologized and said it’s trying to figure out why it fucked up:

Twitter responded with the following apology: “We looked into what happened and identified breakdowns in the process for meeting the cities’ requirements for our chalk stencils. We’re sorry this happened.”

I’m just amazed that no one involved in the process remembered the whole IBM thing, but I guess it’s just a reminder of how old stories like that fade away.

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Companies: ibm, twitter

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Comments on “History Repeats Itself: Twitter Launches Illegal SF Street Stencil Campaign Just As IBM DId Decades Ago”

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18 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

There, one of the random dudes IBM’s ad company had hired to paint this ad message all over sidewalks was arrested and sentenced to community service for vandalism. Not great.

That story has one comment, saying that it was misreported (hard to tell because the magazine link is dead). Apparently they hired him to chalk the message on sidewalks, and he chose to paint it instead, which is why he got in trouble.

btr1701 (profile) says:

"Our Sidewalks are for Vagrants, Dammit!"

Apt or not, the stencils, created using a spray-paint-like chalk, are illegal, according to Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

“That’s not the use of the sidewalks,” she said.

No, of course not! The proper use for sidewalks in San Francisco is for vagrants to block them completely with tents and mountains of garbage, lounge around on them injecting heroin and spreading medieval diseases, and pooping and peeing all over them.

Sweet Jeezus, for the city to collectively clutch its pearls over some chalk-paint which will wash or fade away within a week or so when they routinely tolerate behavior that’s both far more disgusting and an actual threat to public health has got to win the Internet Irony Award of the week.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Chalk Washes Off in the Rain

Back when we were kids, we were often given chalk to write on the sidewalks. No one got upset, other than the mothers of kids who were careless and got squished by the dinosaurs.

Our masterpieces of chalk art on the sidewalks did not survive the next rain storms, however. Such weather events were common, especially during the summers when kids were out of school and thus more at liberty to decorate the sidewalks.

As a result I have a hard time imagining the city succeeding with charges against commercial chalk artists. The evidence dissipates during the afternoon showers. A different result may obtain for paint-based applications.

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