Chicago (CBS) — A Chicago technology company says it was duped by a hate group. Three celebrities were tricked as well, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross has more on how it happened, and what the company plans to do to prevent it from happening again.
Steven Galanis showed CBS 2 around his tech company’s new headquarters in West Town.
The founder and CEO of Cameo said 28 employees will work there with plans to more than triple that.
But, he’s encountered unexpected growing pains. He said this week he learned an anti-Semitic group took advantage of his service.
“It was brutal,” Galanis said. “It made us sick.”
Celebrities like Lance Bass can be paid up to $1,000 to send users personal video messages through Cameo.
The site boasts thousands of other high profile artists and influencers.
The user sends a script to record, which the celebrity can accept or decline.
Around Nov. 22, NFL MVP and Hall of Famer, Brett Favre, made a message reading seemingly benign words and phrases that turned out to be coded hate messages.
“This group took the video, put it on YouTube and had the caption of the YouTube video say, ‘Brett Favre Calls Out the Jews,'” Galanis said.
Galanis said it went viral in the hate community.
Favre posted on Facebook, reading in part,
“Like most Americans, I am sickened by what these groups stand for… Had I understood the source of the request, I never would have fulfilled it.”
But, Favre was not alone.
Comedian Andy Dick and rapper Soulja Boy also unknowingly recorded similar messages.
“This has been a platform used for so much good, but there are bad people out there,” Galanis said. “Now, we’re being more vigilant about that.”
Galanis said his service does not allow hateful or racist content, and the user was banned. They’re now using a system to search for names, words and acronyms linked to hate groups in an effort to prevent this going forward.
“We’ve done over 100,000 of these since the two years we’ve been in existence,” Galanis said. “These are the first videos we’ve ever had to pull.”
The business admits they can’t catch all coded messages even with the best search filters. They’re also trying to remove the videos posted to sites like YouTube.
In a statement, Favre said he’ll be donating the $500 Cameo fee to charities fighting hate and bigotry.