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People Are Criticizing People For Criticizing Monterey Bay Aquarium's Tweet Calling An Otter "Thicc" And "Chonky"

So I see 2018 is still going strong.

Posted on December 20, 2018, at 12:35 p.m. ET

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's social media team has officially experienced the full life cycle of a piece of internet content in 2018.

On Wednesday, the public aquarium in Monterey, California, issued a series of tweets apologizing for a joke-tweet they posted a day earlier about one of their otters in which they called her "thicc," "chonk," and "an absolute unit."

(These terms are colloquial internet lingo first introduced and made popular by various tweets, image captions, and charts in internet history).

Hey everyone. It has come to our attention that some of the references in this tweet are problematic and insensitive. We're posting here in the thread so that people who have engaged with this tweet will join us in our learning moment. 1/4

On Tuesday, the tweet about Abby was initially received with some laughter, cheer, and a few groans.

"This is the kind of content I’m here for," one person tweeted.

People thought the social media employee who came up with the tweet should get a raise. And one person said they loved the tweet so much, it single-handedly convinced them to visit the aquarium.

Others were just confused by the tweet. And some provided editorial feedback, saying they had referenced too many memes at once. (Terms like "thicc" and "chonk" are colloquial internet lingo.)

And, of course, a few were mostly concerned about Abby the otter's health.

@MontereyAq We need more social media managers like this. πŸ˜…

However, by Wednesday, the reaction-tide toward the tweet had shifted.

Users on Twitter β€” who appear to be mostly from academic circles β€” began criticizing the tweet for its "appropriative language" and accusing the nonprofit of inappropriately borrowing from African American Vernacular English (AAVE).

Some even called it "digital blackface."

"Organizations that are not Black run or specifically focused on Black audiences: don't do things like this. @MontereyAq," user @IBJIYONGI, whose profile says they're an assistant professor of particle physics and cosmology, wrote. "This tweet contributes to a hostile environment for Black people, including Black scientists. AAVE isn't a meme for white consumption."

BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Twitter user for comment.

Eventually, the criticism had made enough of an impact that the aquarium decided to apologize for the tweet.

In a series of follow-up tweets in the same thread as the tweet about "thicc" Abby, Monterey Bay Aquarium said staffers "are deeply sorry" to anyone who felt "alienated" by their joke-tweet. They added that they were simply unaware of the AAVE language that was used.

In particular, several terms referenced originated from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and specifically reference Black women's bodies. Using them in a sea otter meme without that background makes insinuations we never intended. We need to do better. 3/4

"Using them in a sea otter meme without that background makes insinuations we never intended. We need to do better," they said.

In a fourth and final tweet, they closed the circle on the internet backlash culture, and concluded their apology tour, by writing, "We're also thankful for those of you out there pointing out our blindspots and how we can improve. Thanks everyone."

Were people happy? No. Did this end the entire ordeal? Of course not.

On Thursday, when people realized the aquarium had atoned for their initial tweet, they got upset β€” at both the critics who called out the tweet, and the aquarium for what they said was an act of giving in to the mob.

@MontereyAq you shouldnt apologize, you did nothing wrong

They're now tweeting back saying the organization had nothing to apologize for.

"This Apology was Unnecessary!" someone wrote.

"Please do not feed the woke outrage mobs," another said.

Others jumped to the aquarium's defense.

"World, we’ve gotta stop all this apologizing," one user wrote.

"Why? If you have the opportunity to learn from other people, what's wrong with apologizing and admitting that you learned something you didn't previously know?" someone responded.

The fight is now about whether an official apology should have been issued at all.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the Monterey Bay Aquarium stood by its public apology, and said it "welcomed the perspective" of critics.

"As an organization that seeks to educate, we absolutely welcomed the perspective, information and open discussion," said the Aquarium’s Chief Marketing Officer Mimi Hahn. "If we want people to listen to us, we have to be willing to listen to them."

@justkelly_ok @MontereyAq It would be if there was a mistake.....wich there is not

Hey, Monterey Bay Aquarium. I find it offensive and problematic that you are endorsing cultural segregation (the view that it's "appropriative" to use slang that originates with other groups). Do I count? https://t.co/fUviLmTXQ3

And people are offended that people were even offended to begin with.

imagine going home for Christmas and having to tell your parents you lost your job doing social for the aquarium because you sexualized an otter

And here is where we have to end this post before either you, or me, or the time-space continuum begins to break. The one I'm most worried about in all this is Abby.

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