Comedians have started a campaign to take down Fuckjerry, one of Instagram’s biggest joke aggregators. The Instagram account, run primarily by Elliot Tebele with contribution from others at Jerry Media, posts jokes and memes from around the internet — while profiting off sponsored posts sent to the 14.3 million followers those jokes have attracted.
This week, comedians on Instagram and Twitter are speaking out against Fuckjerry with the hashtag #fuckfuckjerry and encouraging people to unfollow the account. The campaign comes in light of renewed attention on Jerry Media, from its recent role in documenting — and working for — Fyre Fest, to a recent Vulture article about how it profits off other peoples’ jokes.
Here’s what’s happening and why.
Who is Fuckjerry?
Fuckjerry started as an Instagram account in 2011 and has since grown into a broader company known as Jerry Media. The Fuckjerry account on its own is a valuable business: Jerry Media was charging $30,000 for each sponsored post on its grid back in 2016, according to Adweek. It’s following has nearly doubled in the time since.
The company has a number of other aggregation accounts, like Beige Cardigan, and some with original programming, like the short-form news account Jerry News.
Jerry Media is also a production and marketing company. It produced Netflix’s Fyre Fest documentary, and according to The Atlantic, the agency also worked in an “unofficial capacity” for the Instagram-famous egg. The company also creates products, like a game called What Do You Meme and a tequila called JAJA.
What’s happening, and why now?
Jerry Media gained attention when it showed up in the Fyre Fest documentaries on Hulu and Netflix. The company was hired to promote the music festival and capture its inception. When that festival turned into a disaster, Fuck Jerry pivoted to making a documentary about how the festival went so wrong. Many people likely didn’t realize Fuckjerry, the Instagram account, was part of a larger media empire.
Vulture comedy editor Megh Wright published an article earlier this week, along with a long tweet thread, about how the Fuckjerry account has published comedians’ jokes with captions that advertise the company’s own products, like JAJA tequila. The comedians don’t receive money for their content being used in a post that generates cash for Jerry Media.
— Megh Wright (@megh_wright) January 28, 2019
Since her tweeting, comedians have mobilized on Twitter and Instagram to speak out against Fuckjerry. They want people to unfollow it, devaluing the account. They’re sharing the hashtag #fuckfuckjerry, and in some cases, are sharing an image of the text against a pink gradient. Actor Tim Heidecker shared the post two days ago, which seems like the first time it was used on the platform, and Heidecker has a large reach of more than 160,000 followers.
Another post that’s going around on Instagram shows Fuckjerry’s profile image and the unfollow button below it.
View this post on Instagram
Hey – unfollow @fuckjerry if you care at all about supporting creative people. If you want funny posts, follow real comedians – the people that actually create the posts accounts like FuckJerry steal and repost as their own. They love to tell you “that’s just the way it is now, that’s how the internet works – if we want it we take it and the person with the most followers wins”. But it only works that way because individual people like you and me allow it to. You can make a different choice. #fuckfuckjerry
People on Twitter are often responding directly to Wright’s tweets for support.
I’ve blocked ‘em all. Won’t you block them as well? https://t.co/ZYScGd4Xb0
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) February 1, 2019
What does Fuckjerry have to say?
In a statement to The Verge, a Fuckjerry spokesperson says it encourages creators to “reach out, as we have always enjoyed working with and helping promote them,” and that, “most of the content on the Fuckjerry feed does not come from comedy professionals, however like all other posts, we include attribution wherever possible.”
They also said they have updated their policies and practices to account for feedback, but are “by no means perfect.”
“We welcome a renewed conversation about how best to address this paradigm,” a spokesperson says.
The company also says that over the past couple years, it’s made a “proactive effort to credit everyone for their work.” They have a policy in place that requires them to be responsive to creators, this spokesperson says, but that creators ask for their content to be taken down “very rarely.”
“In most instances, they are excited about being reposted because of the associated value,” the spokesperson says.
Has this happened before?
There was a backlash against another joke aggregator, the Fat Jewish, in 2015 because he wasn’t crediting comedians for their work. The man behind the feed, Josh Ostrovsky, has since started crediting jokes on Instagram, but he also doesn’t post much anymore. He seems to maintain a lower profile now, focusing on his wine company Drink Babe.