A Twitter user with a female Asian profile picture made some shocking allegations against a Papa John’s pizza joint manager over the weekend, sparking furor online.
Upon digging by internet sleuths, however, it was later uncovered that the entire controversy was nothing but a hoax, designed to exploit cultural and racial tensions for retweets.
“Hi, I just quit my job at @PapaJohns in Greenville,” wrote @Geosmaniac in a tweet on Saturday evening. “My manager was a creepy, racist ass. He continuously flirted with me even though I’m 16. Since rejecting him, he’s been leaving me racist notes and threatened to lie and say my family sells illegal dog meat.”
Based on the post, the manager began giving her racist drawings and photos after she turned down his advances. One shared image showed dead dogs being cooked, labeled with the word, “Konnichiwa” on top.
@Geosmaniac also attached a letter filled with threats and anti-Asian slurs purportedly sent by the Papa John’s manager after he found out that she had told a coworker about these incidents.
“You’re out of your mind if you think I’ll lose my job over a chink immigrant who isn’t even supposed to be in my space,” the letter read.
The post immediately went viral, generating thousands of retweets from concerned netizens, many of whom advised the alleged victim to take legal action.
In response to the accusation, Papa John’s released a statement to NextShark expressing the willingness to investigate the situation.
“Papa John’s takes allegations of employee misconduct very seriously. We have reached out several times to this person to find out the exact store location so we can properly investigate this matter and take appropriate action. We have not received a response. We encourage her to contact Papa John’s.”
However, after generating widespread attention, the @Geosmaniac Twitter account and her tweets suddenly disappeared by Sunday morning.
The sudden silence caused many netizens on Twitter and Reddit to cast doubts over the account and the allegations it posted.
William Li, a labor attorney behind Twitter account Detective Snorlax (@Bowdenx3), initially offered to help the alleged victim but eventually became suspicious after further reviewing the account.
In an interview with The Yappie, the user behind the Twitter handle @Geosmaniac reportedly claimed that she was a 16-year-old Papa John’s employee named Georgiana Kao, who was employed at a Greenville, Texas location starting on December 3, 2018.
“When I was nearly done with my shift, he would always pull me to the back and ask if I wanted a ‘quick ride’ home,” “Georgiana” was quoted as saying. “He’d ask me to go on dates nonstop and every time I rejected, he would get angry and rant about how he could fire me whenever [he] wanted.”
According to “Georgiana,” she resigned two days after receiving the racist letter that she posted on Twitter. She also claimed that she reached out to Papa John’s to discuss the incident.
Twitter users @snarkysnowqueen and @Bowdenx3 would later point out several inconsistencies from older posts by the @Geosmaniac account that would diminish its credibility.
For one, @Geosmaniac has previously stated in 2018 that she was 17 years old, contradicting her claim of being 16 at the time of the alleged harassment.
One of the images “Georgiana” claimed was allegedly sent by the manager after December 2018 was also found to be taken from a different Twitter account posted two months earlier.
Both @snarkysnowqueen and @Bowdenx3 also discovered that the user behind @Geosmaniac went from being from a male Kiwi teenager in earlier posts to a young Asian American student by the end of 2018.
In the past, the account used the following images as profile photos on separate occasions:
At the time, the fraudulent account even used a profile picture lifted from Swedish YouTuber Julia Dang.
In an updated report by Andrew Peng, @snarkysnowqueen lamented the negative effects of fake stories on actual victims of abuse.
“I’ll always stand by victims and my motto is ‘believe victims,’” the Twitter user said. “But this had too many holes and I’ve been online for a long time. Fake stories dilute the impact of actual cases of racism and sexual harassment, and someone co-opting the identity of a victimized Asian teenager in a ham-fisted bid for attention needed to be called out.”
For his part, Li stressed the importance of giving “the victim the benefit of the doubt while still fact-checking.”
“This story by no means does anything to discredit anyone else’s experience of being discriminated against. They should never take a story like this, or the acts of someone like the identity thief, as a reason not to [come forward],” he said.