Internet outrage is in full effect right now, and in this particular instance, the outrage is coming from both sides of the issue. What kind of incident could possibly have occurred that could cause such an uproar from so many people around the world?

A red coffee cup.

More accurately, it’s Starbucks’ 2015 holiday cup. Each year since 1997, the coffee chain has substituted its typical white cup with a green logo for a holiday-themed cup around November. This year is no different, although this year, the cup is simply a solid color ombre-red, foregoing any type of imprinted decoration like snowmen or ornaments.

Now, one-time pastor Joshua Feuerstein has declared Starbucks’ new holiday cup to be anti-religious, even going so far as to factually claim that the retailer “hates” the central figure of Christianity whose birth is celebrated by the holiday. He has gone on to urge people to insist that they be referred to by the name “Merry Christmas” when buying coffee in an effort to force Starbucks employees to speak the standard holiday greeting aloud, something he has erroneously claimed the company’s policy forbids.

While it has been called an unfortunate statement by many, that hasn’t stopped Feuerstein supporters and critics alike from sharing his viral video rant against the retailer. The situation has dramatically increased traffic to Feuerstein's YouTube channel and the video, which he posted directly to Facebook and originally claimed on CNN had over 10 million views, now has more than 14 million.

Meanwhile, internet goers are flocking to his channel to watch his other videos, with a sharp increase in traffic noted in the past 24 hours. There are also reports that the man’s followers are showering social media sites with their own pictures of Starbucks cups with the name “Merry Christmas” scribbled on the side in a show of solidarity with his statements.

Whatever the issue, pandering for more traffic is certainly not illegal, so where’s the hoax? Apart from the possibility for a libel suit and the recent announcement from Donald Trump that he’s revoking the lease on the Starbucks location in Trump Tower over this, Feuerstein himself hasn’t done anything to the public. The fallout for consumers remains to be seen, but if attention-grabbing headlines of the past are any indication, the public needs to be on the lookout, not for an angry YouTuber, but for those who swoop in during heated contention with ready-made scams.

Whenever newsworthy events occur—whether it’s a Christmas cup protest or a large-scale natural disaster—scammers wait in the wings to take full advantage. It could be in the form of getting you to click a link that claims to be a petition or encouraging you to sign in to post a comment somewhere (thereby giving the hacker access to your friends’ list, your email contacts, or more).

If hackers have not found a way to exploit this flurry of emotional outrage already, they will. It may even come in the form of a request for “donations” to support the cause. However the scam manifests itself, rest assured that the various ways scammers can benefit off our emotionally charged reactions to a situation can come back to haunt us.

 

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