The account, now closing in on 7 million followers, is exactly what it sounds like. It routinely posts and rates pictures of dogs that have been submitted by Twitter users around the world, embedding funny captions above adorable photos.
Now the account is being accused of whitewashing.
On Monday, WeRateDogs posted an image of Kanan but changed the good boy’s name to “George”. Shortly after, Twitter user @marybwagner asked the account what George’s real name was and why it was changed from the original, Arabic-origin name.
Wagner was subsequently blocked by WeRateDogs.
Shortly after, WeRateDogs apologised to Wagner for blocking her as it’s a “go-to response from this account because of how much nonsense we receive.”
Matt Nelson, creator of the WeRateDogs account, speaking to CNET, explained why the name change occurred.
“That post worked better with a simple name, more specifically something monosyllabic. The “This is ____” introduction had to be as blunt as possible for the remainder of the tweet to work. This is just something I’ve learned over the years running the account. George seemed like a good name, and I’ve learned that people really enjoy common “old man” names that contrast a pic of an adorable puppy.”
Nine of the last 10 posts by WeRateDogs used names with more than one syllable. Furthermore, the account has used the name George five times in the past, dating back to Nov. 20, 2015.
According to Nelson, engagement with the account’s posts is what drives him to change dog names. When he first began the account he “never used actual names.”
“You’re more likely to engage and interact with a post when a dog shares a name with your own or you’ve encountered a dog with that name. Sometimes I change the name because it’s too common.”
“I try to keep it as random as possible.”
He also checked with the owner of the dog, @CaponeKnows, who gave his consent to the change. In a later exchange with Wagner, Nelson explained that he always checks with the owner before he designates the furry beasts with new honorifics.
The reaction to changing Kanan’s name has, in Nelson’s words, been “not good” and he pointed to the earlier tweet by Mary Wagner as a summary of the response.
On Nelson’s personal account, he posted the following, stating that name changes “will never happen again”.
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