Drinks brand Smirnoff has marked the beginning of LGBT Pride Month by launching an initiative against online homophobic trolling, called #ChooseLove.
The British brand says it will use social media monitoring tools to identify users of Facebook and Twitter who have been targeted with homophobic or transphobic abuse.
Offensive tweets will be highlighted by a “taskforce of artists”, the firm says, who will respond to the hateful messages with colourful drawings themed around love.
The company will then show a selection of its artwork at a London exhibition in early July, ahead of the Pride in London Parade.
Smirnoff is one of many corporations supporting London Pride, with the summer parade traditionally supported by Barclays, Starbucks, and Tesco.
Some LGBT advocates remain sceptical of corporate involvement. In the US city of Boston, for example, an organiser of the Dyke March – which competes with the city’s annual Pride march – said that it was “important for us to stay noncommercial”.
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Smirnoff’s campaign follows a report last year from Galop, an LGBT anti-violence charity, which found that almost one in three members of the LGBT users of social media have experienced online abuse targeting their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The report identified trans people as the most likely to experience abuse, with 44% having received transphobic online abuse.
In an example illustration launched by Smirnoff, one user tweets: “Of course the ‘best kiss’ at the MTV Awards was given to two men. Excuse me while I puke’.
This tweet referred to the kiss between Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome in this year’s highly acclaimed biopic Moonlight, which follows a gay man through three stages of his life.
Smirnoff responded to the tweet with a drawing of several gay couples passionately kissing in a nigthclub, complete with the tag #ChooseLove.
“We are proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT+ community for over 20 years,” said Chris Laidlaw, head of Smirnoff Europe.
“We feel that it is our responsibility to help encourage diversity, equality and inclusivity in society.”
He added: “Smirnoff wants to put a spotlight upon the worrying trend that Galop has identified, and through our campaign we hope to have a positive impact that encourages a dialogue of understanding, respect and compassion in both social media and wider society.
“By collectively taking action we can all spread a message of inclusivity, diversity and love.”