McDonald’s has faced a backlash from LGBT rights advocates as it launched the hashtag #CheersToSochi on Twitter, in promotion of the Winter Olympics.
The fast food giant is an official sponsor of the games, and has, alongside Coca-Cola, been targeted by campaigns urging it to cut ties following the introduction of an anti-gay law last June.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law which bans the “promotion of non-traditional relationships” to minors. There has been an international outcry with some urging a boycott of the February games.
After McDonald’s launched the hashtag, intending that it would be used as a way to send message of support to athletes at the games, campaigners appeared to hijack it, using it to draw attention to the LGBT situation in Russia.
One Twitter user said: Gay people are dying in Russia, meanwhile @McDonaldsCorp is asking people to celebrate sending #CheersToSochi”, and another asked: “Cheering what? Olympic officials pummeling gay activists? Russian laws attacking LGBT people. Shame! #CheersToSochi”.
Many others used the hashtag in a similar fashion, and some just wrote: “No #CheersToSochi.”
On Friday, McDonald’s told Reuters that it was aware that some had been using the hashtag for purposes other than it was intended.
“McDonald’s supports human rights, the spirit of the Olympics and all the athletes who’ve worked so hard to compete in the Games,” the company said in a statement.
“We believe the Olympic Games should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and athletes.”