Virtual dogs are hot

DENVER • Watchdogs now patrol social media. And dogs, as most Twitter users have found, are the sought-after mouthpieces behind the most contentious issues.

These virtual dogs bark, growl and are not afraid to get dirty in Twitter's chaotic battleground, while simultaneously playing upon humans' affinity for cuteness.

Each account offers political and social commentary under the guise of an adorable avatar.

Racism Watchdog is known for its trademark angry "borks" and "woofs", alerting users to tweets with racist undertones, while Breitbark News relays its conservative pet causes through dog puns.

Originality is key in leaving "paw" marks online, with Racism Watchdog drawing about 500,000 followers.

Ms Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication, culture and digital technologies at Syracuse University, said: "It's not just that people like dogs. It's that people have also got used to a type of dog speak that they like."

A pioneer of Internet dog lingo is Mr Matt Nelson, founder of We Rate Dogs and Thoughts Of Dog, two Twitter accounts that, together, broadcast to more than eight million followers.

He considers his causes more humanitarian than political. "People who support (political accounts) are loving the content because it's cute animals paired with things that reinforce all their world views, so of course they like it," he noted.

But that engagement can come back to bite you. The founders of Racism Watchdog have maintained anonymity, citing accounts of harassment online after their comments made fur fly.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'Virtual dogs are hot'. Print Edition | Subscribe