The Real Reason Coca-Cola Personalized Bottles Are So Problematic

Coca-Cola decided this year to implement a personalized Coca-Cola label product on their website. The way the product works (via the Coca-Cola website) is that on an 8 oz. bottle of Coke you can choose a label design to celebrate an occasion, and then choose what name appears on the label. In theory this would address the fact that stores never seem to stock bottles bearing names relevant to you. However, there is an obvious problem: the internet. Another time when McDonald's attempted to let customers create custom recipes on the internet, it devolved from stacks of patties called "Girth" and unadorned buns called "Bernie Sanders' socialist feast" to "Harambe is Gone Haha" and "Pepe." Presumably there were even worse, but McDonald's quickly removed the option.

Coca-Cola sidestepped this problem by pre-screening certain names. If, as of writing, you type in "Nazi," the website will refuse to show you a preview, instead presenting you with "Oops! Looks like the name you requested is not an approved one." The explanation goes on to say they won't allow potentially offensive terms, trademarked items, or the names of celebrities. They then ask for patience because they might mess up, and if they do, contact their "Customer Care team." All sounds sensible, except for the parts that weren't. 

At first, Coca-Cola banned 'gay,' but not 'Nazi'

The problem is that with the "Nazi" example, Coca-Cola only banned it at the time of writing, not before. As The Daily Dot reported, many users on Twitter found that words or phrases that indicated either a more left-wing position or a Muslim identity were banned, while countervailing ones were not. So, you could not have Palestine, Muhammad, or Black Lives Matter, but you could have Israel, Nazis, and Blue Lives Matter.

In fairness to Coca-Cola, they did update their list. Originally, both "lesbian" and "transgender" would have been flagged as potentially offensive, but are allowed now. Such fairness, however, is quite critical when you consider the fact that these ideas were listed as offensive during Pride Month, a month Coca-Cola recognized by including a Pride-themed label. The lesson is probably that the internet is awful and any attempt to either allow for customer freedom or to curtail it might very well backfire in some way.