The setup to this story can be contained in a few sentences that would have made no sense a decade ago, but that now make perfect sense.
There is an Instagram account called FuckJerry, which grew by taking jokes and memes created by other people and posting them, eventually growing an audience hungry for ever more jokes. The account spawned a media company, Jerry Media, and desperate ad executives from the world’s biggest companies now pay to be seen on FuckJerry, on the premise that that’s where they’ll reach young people who don’t have their eyeballs on the places they used to.
FuckJerry embodies some essential component of life online now—the same principle that leads everyday people to repost “BREAKING” tweets and treacly Facebook videos about cops giving kids ice cream. You can’t create the most popular content every day—but you can definitely see what it is and simply repost that. Some algorithm sees that post did well for you, and some number changes on a server in Ireland and your next post is slightly more likely to do a little bit better. Do that pretty well with other people’s jokes 5,000 times and you’ve got FuckJerry.
Creators of funny things have long hated the account, along with the many, many similar viral aggregators. And it was in that context that the #FuckFuckJerry campaign began, as described by its creator, Megh Wright, in New York magazine. Wright’s request was that people unfollow the account as a start to dismantling its unjust profit machine. “It wasn’t a campaign championed just by comedians,” Wright wrote, “actors, YouTubers, artists, men who definitely aren’t actually wolves, Steak-umm (yes, Steak-umm), and smaller meme-creators who are tired of FuckJerry building a profitable empire on a foundation of stolen content all made noise on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.”