Update, July 19: This article has been updated with a statement from the artist behind the cartoon.
At today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on “social media filtering practices,” representatives from an anti-Facebook group held up signs depicting Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as octopuses whose tentacles wrap around the entire planet behind the head of a Facebook representative.
The group, Freedom from Facebook, tweeted out a photo of the flyer, along with a caption saying it was an “homage to the famous Standard Oil cartoon.”
Throwback Tuesday? #FreedomFromFacebook paid homage to the famous Standard Oil cartoon today at the @HouseJudiciary committee’s hearing on content filtering practices of social media giants like @Facebook.https://t.co/CspFpoN7lC pic.twitter.com/6Lsv5jW8Yh— Freedom From Facebook (@FacebookBreakup) July 17, 2018
The Freedom from Facebook coalition aims to have the Federal Trade Commission break up Facebook to make it “safe for our democracy,” and to protect the privacy of users.
“The FTC should spin off Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger into competing networks, require interoperability, so we have the freedom to communicate across social networks, and impose strong privacy rules that empower and protect us,” the Freedom from Facebook website states.
Depictions of Jews as octopuses have long been associated with anti-Semitism, stemming back to Adolf Hitler’s declaration of “Jewish tyrants” as octopuses.
“If our people and our state become the victim of these bloodthirsty and avaricious Jewish tyrants of nations, the whole earth will sink into the snares of this octopus; if Germany frees herself from this embrace, this greatest of dangers to nations may be regarded as broken for the whole world,” Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf.”
Caricatures of Zuckerberg as an octopus have been decried as anti-Semitic before. In 2007, the NRA came under fire for depicting then-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as an octopus. More recently, in 2018, the Columbia University College Republicans were called out for a cartoon depicting severed tentacles.
In a statement, Eddie Vale, the Jewish artist behind the cartoon, reiterated that the flyer was meant to evoke the Standard Oil cartoon.
“Obviously there’s racist and anti-Semitic idiots throughout history, and online today, who do stupid and hateful things but that has no bearing here because I’m the Jewish person who designed, and knows, what it is,” Vale said. “We’re arguing Facebook is a monopoly…we made a graphic riffing off of the most famous, and recognizable, anti-monoply (sic) cartoon in American history…that’s all it was and I am confident in saying that because I know what was in my head through this entire process.”
Some on Twitter had taken notice of the signs, expressing dismay and confusion over the imagery.
Um… WTF is up with those signs? https://t.co/HDYXJSfzZ6 pic.twitter.com/WFO9ueyVRN— Alex VanNess (@thealexvanness) July 17, 2018