@FEMINIST GOT THEIR FOLLOWERS BY STEALING FROM MARGINALIZED CREATORS
This story was originally published on Medium for Slay The Patriarchy in 2018. The exact original story was not available at the time of republishing, therefore this version is missing some details from the original piece. This story has been edited to reflect the proper pronouns and name of Ezra Wheeler.
Trigger Warning: this piece discusses ableist comments, violence, and rape.
When you think of the word feminist, surely two white cis men stealing marginalized artists, activists, and other online creator content isn’t what you think of, but that’s what you’re supporting if you follow the Instagram account @feminist or it’s “sister” pages @itsfeminism, @march, and @chnge.
These accounts have been getting some attention lately for stealing the work of real activists without credit. Disabled rights activist and intersectional feminist @Ezra.Wheels recently had his photo used without his consent.
After reaching out, Ezra and some other activist pages like Slay The Patriarchy thought the account might be run by bots due to the unmoderated comments section and quantity of posts. But it turns out @feminist, @itsfeminism, @march, and @chnge are run by two men—Tanner Sweitzer and Jacob Castaldi. Ezra was getting ableist and violent messages in the comment section of the photo @Feminist stole from his account and it went completely unmoderated for its life on the page.
Sweitzer used to work for a company called @IvoryElla whose bio says they are a charitable company whose “mission is to eliminate the elephant crisis. 10% of profits donated to save elephants & other charitable causes 🐘”.
While at @IvoryElla, Sweitzer met it’s co-founder Jacob Castaldi who went on to found @chnge and brought Sweitzer with him. And the COO of @chnge? Castaldi’s college roommate, Henry Eisenhart. The men tote their strategic ability and social media know how. Sweitzer’s official position on LinkedIn is labeled as “Director of Social Media at Contagious Creative” of CHNGE, despite having 1759 followers on his own Twitter.
CHNGE used “paid media shares” to promote these pages, allowing their company and @Zuck to directly profit off the stolen work being promoted. They claim to be experts at “curating content that would best resonate with our target demographic,” clearly showing a lack of empathy as they profit off rape victims and disabled folks. The page even stole art from activists for survivors and shared it during national breaking news regarding a sexual assault case. [This post is no longer available]
The company CHNGE has made it a priority to be inaccessible to discuss any potential issues and declined to comment on their copyright infringement of @Ezra.Wheels and many others whose content was stolen. Yet, BIPOC femmes, disabled folks, queer folks, and their intersections are constantly being silenced, hacked, and shut down on Instagram despite not violating any terms of service. Social media is a tool, but Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram allow pages like this to thrive as they make their profit off the work of marginalized folks without any credit or value being passed along.
All statistics and information were accurate as of 12/6/2018 when this story was originally published. Since then, a story written by Cecilia Nguyen has brought light to this issue again and due to the viral nature of this piece, the men in this story have altered, deleted, or made private their social media accounts. Please read that piece for an updated comprehensive look at the events related to this story since 2018.