McDonald's is embroiled in a social media nightmare after a sexual video featuring McChicken goes viral

McDonald’s is going viral for a disturbing reason.

A very graphic video of a man engaging in a sexual act with a McChicken sandwich went viral this weekend. The video, and people’s responses to it, helped propel #McChicken to the position of a top trending topic on Twitter and Facebook on Sunday evening into Monday.

Of course, as more people clicked the McChicken hashtag to see why it was trending, more people were exposed to the disturbing video. And, after being exposed, they felt the need to comment on the video themselves, further growing the video’s reach.

By Monday, thousands of social media users — including celebrities like Seth Rogen and Chrissy Teigen — had name-dropped the McChicken.

Nearly all the posts are expressing disgust, and most seem to have discovered the topic after wondering why #McChicken was trending.

The explosion of the #McChicken hashtag reveals how social media platform’s algorithms that track and promote trending news can have unintended negative effects for a brand. Posts signalling disgust and outrage about being tricked into watching the video are by far the most common social media posts about the #McChicken. However, expressing disgust that #McChicken was trending just helps #McChicken to grow.

It’s a similar situation to the supposed “outrage” over Starbucks’ plain red cups last winter — just way more gross and explicit. In November 2015, people criticising others who were outraged by the red cups on social media far outnumbered those who were actually outraged. However, because the two parties used the same hashtag, it allowed the anti-Starbucks trend to quickly expand, and to seem much bigger than it ever was.

While Starbucks ultimately had one of its most successful holiday seasons ever after the red cup scandal, McDonald’s may not be so lucky.

Recently, the fast-food chain has been focusing marketing on its new Chicken McNuggets, made with 100% white meat. A viral video of a man engaging in a sexual act with a chicken sandwich is almost certainly far from the social media response the chain was hoping for with its mission to promote higher-quality chicken products.

McDonald’s did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the situation.

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