Now you see it, now you don't. Wait: Now you do.
A global game of Whack-a-Mole broke out Wednesday on the Internet when YouTube removed a gruesome anti-Nestlé commercial by Greenpeace after the multinational food giant complained, only to have viewers flock to the video-sharing site Vimeo.com, where the spot became an instant cause célèbre because of the reputed censorship.
The 60-second video depicts a bored office worker enjoying a Kit Kat, which rather than being the popular chocolate-hazelnut ladyfinger-style confection, appears to be a chocolate-covered ape finger. As he munches on the treat, it oozes blood over his chin and across his keyboard, shocking his co-workers. "Have a break?" reads the on-screen text. "Give the orangu-tan a break."
Controversial video: (warning - graphic content)
The call refers to allegations that Nestlé SA buys palm oil from companies destroying the Indonesian rain forests in order to plant oil palms. Nestlé Canada uses palm oil in Kit Kat, Rolo, Butterfinger and Coffee Crisp.
The video was posted to the Web at the same time a handful of protesters paraded in front of the Croydon headquarters of Nestlé U.K., wearing orangutan costumes and carrying signs that had the word "Killer" executed in the familiar red-on-white Kit Kat font.
Other protesters unfurled large signs that mimicked a Kit Kat ad and read "Give me a break."
The protest might have fallen flat if Nestlé had ignored it. Instead, after the video had been seen by fewer than 1,000 viewers, it was forced from YouTube and replaced with the statement: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A."
Greenpeace quickly re-posted it to Vimeo.com and sent out word about the video's suppression via Twitter and other social media, where users attacked Nestlé both for its heavy-handedness and lagging environmental practices. Many mockingly noted they wouldn't have heard of the issue if Nestlé had not had the video pulled, while others pledged to boycott the company.
The protest action highlighted yesterday's release of a Greenpeace report alleging that Nestlé and the Indonesian industrial giant Sinar Mas, which supplies the food company with palm oil and is also a major pulp-and-paper supplier, are "partners in crime," whose actions may lead to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of hectares of rain forest. "Not only are these areas key habitat for orangutans, but also crucial carbon stores; the destruction of these areas is a major cause of Indonesia's rocketing carbon emissions," Greenpeace stated.
The organization added that Sinar Mas has already been dropped by Unilever, Kraft, Sainsbury and Shell.
A few hours after the video was posted to the Web, Nestlé said in a statement issued from its Swiss headquarters that it had "replaced the Indonesian company Sinar Mas as a supplier of palm oil with another supplier for further shipments," and insisted that no palm oil from Sinar Mas had been used outside Indonesia. Still, it acknowledged that it could not guarantee that Sinar Mas palm oil wasn't finding its way into the shipments of other suppliers it used.
"We share the deep concern about the serious environmental threat to rain forests and peat fields in South East Asia caused by the planting of palm oil plantations," the company said.
Nestlé recently announced its commitment to using only "Certified Sustainable Palm Oil" by 2015, when it said sufficient quantities should be available.