PITTSBURGH: Language-learning app Duolingo deleted a comment it posted on TikTok making fun of actress Amber Heard, following backlash on Wednesday.
The now-deleted comment was, “ya’ll think amber watches tiktok,” in response to a clip posted by NBC from Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit trial against Heard. The suit stems from the actress’ op-ed in The Washington Post saying she is a victim of domestic abuse. Heard did not directly accuse Depp, her ex-husband, but the actor said the column has cost him film roles. Heard has counter-sued Depp.
Chris Harihar, partner at Crenshaw Communications, tweeted a screenshot of Duolingo’s comment on Tuesday and voiced his opposition to the brand making fun of a domestic violence victim. Harihar’s tweet went viral, with many Twitter users agreeing with him.
After Duolingo deleted the comment about Heard, its global social media manager, Zaria Parvez, used her personal Twitter account to apologize.
On what planet does a brand - even @duolingo - think it’s cool to crack jokes about an alleged victim of domestic violence? The Depp fandom bubble on TikTok is very real but no brand should get anywhere near it. pic.twitter.com/HvvtrKDoRg— Chris Harihar (@ChrisHarihar) May 18, 2022
“I made a mistake, it’s deleted and I’m listening,” Parvez tweeted on Wednesday. “I’m 24 – a yr out of college – managing an account that I didn’t expect to grow how it did & learning social responsibility on a curve. Taking full ownership. It’s an early career lesson for me and I’m learning to be better.”
Even after Parvez apologized, Twitter users berated her for Duolingo’s Heard comment.
Parvez has since set her Twitter profile to private.
Parvez and a Duolingo spokesperson were not immediately available for comment.
On LinkedIn, other social media managers shared their thoughts on the incident. Steak-umm social media manager Nathan Allebach wrote that he disagrees with the public shaming of Parvez and noted that people condemning her over Duolingo’s comment aren’t helping.
“The social media manager made a mistake by jumping in,” he wrote. “They deleted the comment and owned it. Pushing boundaries is always a risk. It’s easy to get lost in the sauce when you're at the top of the game. We’ve all posted regrettable stuff. Hopefully their team learns from this and restructures with more guidelines or support to avoid future missteps.”
Kath Stevens, a social media manager at Within Health, replied to Allebach’s post, stating that working in social is “tough” because every mistake, even leaving a comment, is highly visible.
“If social media managers want grace and understanding for ourselves, we have to be willing to extend it to our peers and give them room to make mistakes (and fix them!),” Stevens said.
Raven Wilson, social media strategist for M1 Finance, commented that it is unrealistic for social media managers to know something is a mistake inherently when they do it.
“These things are literally how you learn,” she wrote. “Situations like this scare some into a safety-only route. Other times, the message it teaches is to avoid any hard topic ever—which also is not the best approach.”
Kristin Thomas, Gartner’s senior director of social media and employer branding, shared that in a previous role, she worked for a highly regulated brand that had a two-step approval process for both social media posts and responses.
“And even then, we made some mistakes,” she wrote. “It doesn’t have to be so formal, however, for other brands. There are ways to ensure checks and balances within the team to test out things ‘on the edge.’”
Thomas added that she hopes the team at Duolingo allows Parvez the space to continue to learn and grow.
Other social media managers praised Parvez’s accomplishments.Dayna Sara Baker, social media manager at Revolut, called Parvez a “superstar,” noting that she has changed the potential for brands on TikTok.
Social media manager for Osmind, Prakruti Nadendla, added that Parvez is a “badass social manager and her owning up to the mistake and taking it as a learning experience speaks a lot to her character and her future in the field.”
Duolingo has 4.2 million followers on TikTok and its success on the platform has been largely attributed to Parvez.