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Samsung apologizes, removes South Station ads that sparked controversy

Some Boston residents, like City Councilor Tito Jackson, said the Samsung ads made racist implications about the predominantly black neighborhood.
south station
Boston's South Station. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Samsung has apologized to the residents of Mattapan after ads for the tech company’s security feature sparked complaints by some about racist undertones.

In South Station, large Samsung banners advertised Knox, the company’s mobile security platform built into its smartphones.

“We’ll keep your work stuff safe if you go to Alewife and your phone goes to Mattapan,” the signs read.

City Councilor Tito Jackson, who is also running for mayor, was one who took issue with the ads and their implications about the predominantly black Boston neighborhood.

A spokesperson for the MBTA said that it was not aware of the ad before it went up and that a firm named Ashkenazy manages South Station and its advertisements. Clear Channel, Ashkenazy’s ad contractor, removed the two ads on Aug. 30.

Jackson saw the ad after the Bay State Banner tweeted an image of it that had been submitted by a reader.

“What’s up with this ad message?” the publication tweeted. “Why use Mattapan? Not even on the red line… What are they implying?”

Mattapan Station is listed as a Red Line stop but is only accessible by a separate trolley that departs from Ashmont, which is portrayed as one end of the Red Line. Trains departing Alewife station at one end of the Red Line list their final destinations as either Ashmont or Braintree.

A few residents acknowledged that the ads may have been attempting to reference complete opposites of the train line and that the company was not familiar enough with the Boston transit system.

Still, some added that it was “ill conceived.” Jackson wrote on his Facebook page that he called the MBTA about the ads and “stressed to them how offensive this signage is and how great Mattapan and the Mattapan community is.”

Jackson thanked the Bay State Banner and others who brought the ad to his attention, adding, “We must never be silent in the face of signs of intolerance and racism, blatant or not.”

While some people thanked Jackson, other's said his reaction was a "reach."

Samsung apologized for any offensive implication. The ad campaign is running in train stations and airports around the country, a spokesperson said, with the tagline that "humans will be humans,"meaning people leave their phones behind on a regular basis.

The point of the ad, the spokeserson said, is that if you do leave your phone behind, the data in it will be safe because of Knox, which is embedded in the Samsung software. 

“While our advertisement was meant to showcase Knox’s capabilities when someone forgets their phone on the train, as soon as we were made aware of the reaction to our South Station placement, we worked with Clear Channel to take the sign down immediately," the statement continued. "We sincerely apologize to the people of Mattapan.”

 
 
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